What it is like to be a Third Year? 


Jessica, Exeter, 21

Why did I want to do medicine?

I cannot honestly tell you where wanting to be a doctor came from initially but I know I have always considered it as a career from a young age. When I was younger I always said I wanted to be the people on Casualty or Holby City (I was obviously too young to realise that actually that meant being an actor!) and I always liked science at school. I am also quite a people person and love talking to people and finding out about their life (maybe a bit nosey!) so this fitted well with a career which involved meeting and caring for people and creating relationships. I guess I knew that I had an interest in medicine and when I started to look more into it and working towards achieving the required grades I was spurred on further to do something worthwhile and beneficial with my qualifications and skills. I thought about being a midwife or paramedic but I chose medicine because it offers the opportunity to choose a specific specialism which interests you and allows you to offer an expert service to your patients.

What's the best thing about student life?

1)    Meeting new friends 2) Becoming independent and 3) All the new fab opportunities and things to get involved with!
It sounds cliché and before Uni I didn’t really believe people who told me so but you really do make your best friends at Uni. Being around each other a lot of the time, and having each other through the fun and sometimes difficult times really does help you to bond a lot more and a lot quicker than you may think. Luckily I have still managed to stay friends with people from before Uni, but my friends at Uni will definitely be friends for life. Becoming independent is a little scary at first (washing up, cooking etc!) but it is really satisfying to move away from parents and survive on your own in the big wide world! There are tonnes of opportunities of things to get involved in at Uni but you definitely won’t be short of things to do. I’ve visited fab parts of the country, and world, with people I’ve met at Uni and also tried lots of new sports which does come as quite a surprise as I was potentially the worst PE student ever before Uni.

My typical week.

I’m third year so this year brought the first proper clinical placement. We had had afternoon sessions in GP and the hospital before but third year features actual 9-5 working on the wards! This was initially a very daunting thought but actually third year has put all the learning from lectures into real practice has put being a real doctor back into perspective.

We actually began the year with a research project, the BMedSci, which allowed us to conduct some research on a chosen topic and pursue our personal interests. This is great for our CV and gives us an additional degree. I chose to do a study into support requirements for women with ovarian cancer.

Placements in third year rotate around medicine, surgery and general practice. Monday-Thursday on medicine and surgery involves a whole host of things including clinics, ward rounds, time shadowing a doctor, practical clinical skills sessions and theatre. I usually leave at around 7:20am to get to the hospital for 8 and start with a ward round or go straight to theatre (I am on surgery at the moment) and this is generally the same on medicine with a ward round or clinic. I usually finish about 3pm/4pm.

When I move to GP placement I will be working 8am-4pm in the GP surgery and will get the opportunity to see my own patients.

Placements are sometimes quite self-organised and you have to seek out opportunities to get involved additional to timetabled sessions.

On Fridays we don’t have placement and instead have 9am-12 of lectures called Scientific Basis of Medicine which is additional lecture based information for our learning, and in the afternoon we have our Student Selected Unit. This is a unit chosen by ourselves to enhance our interests. I chose to learn a language so am doing French but there are lots of clinical and non-clinical things to choose from eg. medicine in the movies, radiology and global health.

Outside of medicine on Mondays I do beginners ski lessons and spinning at the gym on a Monday and Wednesday. At the weekends I usually spend time in Southampton with my friends or friends from home visit me. Sometimes I go home about once every 6 weeks.

The highlight of medical school?

There are a few things I could mention here. Within medicine, it is a huge satisfaction when you pass exams and progress to the next year. You have really worked hard to be here and to know you are one step closer to being a doctor is really pleasing. Also, when you have a good interaction with a patient, or complete a clinical skill for the first time, or make a correct diagnosis etc. it is also really rewarding and you feel like you hard work has paid off. Aside from medicine, meeting my friends here at Uni is a big highlight.

What am I looking forward to most?

Graduating! When I embarked on 6 years of medical school it seemed so long, and now I am over halfway through and the end is in sight! I just want to finally achieve my goal and be a proper doctor!

Advice to a younger me?

Just don’t give up – it sounds cheesy but please don’t! I really felt the odds were stacked against me when I was doing my A levels. I had a tough 2 years in sixth form due to personal issues but let me tell you, I came across the widening access 6 year course (BM6) after I had given up on medicine for that year. I got myself some work experience (some more advice – make sure you do work experience and talk about what you learnt not just what you did on your personal statement - whether it be in a charity shop, children’s nursery, care home etc. if you are unable to get medical placements!) and applied and was lucky enough to get a place. I then had to go up two grades from my AS chemistry and really had to work my socks off. But if I can do it, anyone can. And trust me, whilst medicine isn’t for everyone, if you have a genuine interest and passion, and make all the positive steps such as working hard for those grades, getting work experience, a good personal statement and UKCAT, that really will shine through. Wishing you the best of luck!