Sunday, February 9, 2014

Medical School Interview, Job Applications, and etc!

I was hoping to get a bit more free time to make some posts. I am either busy catching up with work, or dead tired. So I will be addressing many things in this post.

1) Medical School Interviews

I know I'm a bit late with this, but hopefully most of you have seen my older posts on tips for medical school interviews. Because I had my interviews back in 2008, I'm not as "updated" as others out there as I'm sure the system has changed. In regards to my particular medical school, we still run the standard panel of 3 interviewing 1 applicant. Each applicant has 20 minutes. Here are some quick tips, which I have mentioned before:

  • Reflect on your experiences. Integrate reflection of your past activities into your interview questions. It is one thing to answer the question with one word, but show us an example of when you had shown "this" particular skill or a particular experience where you learned something that helps you be a strong applicant
  • Dress smartly - I'm not kidding you...I have seen some applicants turn up in a wrinkled shirt and creased trousers. I guess I don't have the right to judge someone's dress, but this is an interview for a very competitive spot in medical school. You need to impress and the first thing the interviewer sees, is you and how you carry yourself and what you're wearing. Yes we shouldn't judge a book by its cover, but why start an uphill battle before you have even sat down in front of the panel. 
  • Medical schools want to find out more about your personal qualities that they couldn't get from your personal statement. This is your time to shine in an interview. Some schools allow the interviewers to have read the applicant's personal statement before they come in for their interview. Expand on it.
  • Confidence. Yes it is very nervous time, but you need to put on your confident face. Deliver your answers confidently. Don't sound unsure as these are questions about yourself. You shouldn't be unsure of your own personal qualities/experiences/achievements.
  • Give succinct answers aka don't beat around the bush, yet try not to give very short answers as that means the interviewer will need to come up with more questions to ask you...
  • Think your answers through before answering. You don't lose any points sitting for 30 seconds to think over your answer. Think the interviewers appreciate it more if you gave a structured succinct answer. 
  • Back to basics: eye contact, try not to fidget while sat in your seat (trust me the interviewers notice it and it is quite distracting), and try to smile (it just makes the process seem so much less dreary and gloomy)
  • I remember before going into my interview I told myself it is just questions about myself. I know myself best and no one knows me better than me. Interviewers (from what I have experienced) aren't out there to catch you out. They honestly want to know more about you and see if that personal statement matches the applicant who sits in front of them. 20 minutes isn't a long time to make that judgement, so as an applicant you don't have much time to get your personality across.
2) Job Applications

Right this biggest pain up the backside you'll face in your final year. Why is it a pain? It is because you're trying to focus on passing your finals, then this FPAS application crops up a few months prior so you're trying to revise yet do your job application correctly. The first step of job applications is filling out your basic details, your degree details/any additional degrees, if you are going for an academic job you have to answer 3 questions where you have 250 (?) words to answer, and then rank your deaneries which are based on regions. You have to rank all 26 or so regions, so you cannot opt out of certain regions. That means doing it strategically as well. Obviously London will be extremely competitive and you'll need to be realistic about your score and whether you can keep up with the rest of the country to get that job. You'll need to have in mind your "backup" region in case things don't go so well. 

Once you submit your application, there are these exams called the "Situational Judgement Test". It is 2.5 hour exam on ethics and being a good doctor. They give you a bunch of scenarios and you have to rank in order or select the best 3 things you should do. It's not exactly an exam you can study for, but it is worth practising. There are lots of books for sale. I personally used MedGrad book "Situational Judgement Test for the Foundation Years Programme 2nd Edition" and found it to be really accurate and similar to the paper itself. It also has really good explanations with the GMC guidance alongside for your reference. It's not cheap, but I thought it really helped me prepare for the SJT. I started practising approximately 2 weeks prior to the exam so it's not something you need to spend a lot of time on. Think the main thing to keep in mind that this exam is about what you SHOULD do, not what you would do.

Once SJT is over, we don't get our results until we find out about our deanery allocation in March, but the wait isn't that painstaking since there are finals to think about! As usual this year jobs have been oversubscribed so we'll see how that goes - fingers crossed.

3) Other Things - Update

So like the title of my blog - life of a medical student is pretty crazy...and I should just rename it to "hectic". I'm now on my final run of placements before end of medical school. Pretty crazy to think about that. It's just now working on skills that are needed for an F1, so that means not going to clinic or theatre and spending majority of my time on the wards and doing jobs. Bit weird to be honest. I always have this temptation to go down to theatres for a nosy.

What has been happening right after exams? I had another rotation in Orthopaedics as we all know you can't get enough of Orthopaedics. It was a really good attachment. Got a lot of theatre time and clinics peppered in between. Scrubbed loads of times and got to work on my surgical skills. Still got all my fingers as well - that's always a bonus. Now in my final year, I've finally really grasped this "pro-active" concept of things and think it has really helped. Instead of waiting to be asked to do something, I offer to do it first or just go off and get it done. Seems to go down well and I've gotten a lot more opportunities to do things and be more involved. Think it helps with gaining trust from the registrar/consultants. Also still managed to stay true to myself and continue to be really personable with the other team members (e.g. consultant, registrar, SHOs, etc). We are all human at the end of the day and no one likes to talk about work all the time. Gotten to know a few more registrars and a few consultants while sat in the coffee room in between cases and just makes the experience more enjoyable. Of course this is after gauging the other person's personality and how open they are. I know when to keep my beak shut and just be really quiet. So far the consultants I have encountered are pretty talkative and really laid back so quite lucky in that sense.

I shall give you all a break! Long enough post I believe! Sorry again for lack of year just seems to be that much more hectic...somehow.

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Still Alive! Happy New Year!

Wow these last 2 months have been a whirlwind hence I haven't had time to make a post (apologies!). Essentially just wanted to check-in and wish everyone a Happy New Year. 2013 for me has been a whistle-stop tour. I've made many accomplishments and is certainly another memorable year. Some highlights:
  • Presenting a poster at a national conference
  • Meeting new people
  • Going back home for my elective 
  • Commencing another research project (fairly large one too)!
  • Applying for my first proper job!
  • Learning more skills (medical and surgical)
  • Being happy :)
This year had blown by and it has essentially been a year where I had to gain even more confidence especially knowing next year, I will be given responsibilities (no more fooling around!). This second half of the year was just hectic. The minute I came back from elective, it was just non-stop meeting deadlines and never-ending work. Even now I'm supposed to be busy as I've got my first set of final exams in a few days (cruel). I despise revising through the's very depressing. 

Anyways better get back to revising. I'll hopefully get some free time soon and be able to write an entry about the job application process and what that was like. 

Wishing you all a Happy New Year. I know for sure it'll be a big and very important year for me. Bring on 2014!

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Radiology: Dark Room - Perfect for Snoozing.

So I had my attachment in Radiology. I was a bit hesitant about it, as I'm not great at sitting still, though I was excited to actually be taught how to read X-rays, CT/MRI scans and maybe see a bit of intervention radiology done. As expected first day I was sat in a dark room in front of a computer screen with a radiologist. Had great teaching on how to read chest x-rays, but eventually it got a bit boring and repetitive. Eventually I found myself zoning out, but luckily the radiologist had to go to a meeting so allowed me to go home. Thought to myself: "Jeez how am I going to survive a full day tomorrow in a dark room?"

Next day, same thing in a dark room, but smaller room...which was fairly stuffy and warm. Perfect environment for a snooze. This time we were going through MRI scans of the head. Complicated, but interesting. Had a bit of a late night the day before trying to do job applications, so I found it hard to wake up. Eventually again, found myself drifting off. I was sat behind the radiologist and because he had quite a long list of things to do, he would go back into his own world and dictate a report. While he does that, I felt my eyes getting heavier...and let's say at one point I nearly fell off my chair. Then off to ultrasound in the afternoon. I followed the sonographer, and again they work in a dark room. It was fairly straight forward, except at least there's a little bit of patient contact. Despite this, found myself falling off the high chairs while trying to focus on the screen.  I think it didn't help that I didn't get any hands-on as this attachment was more just to get a feel for the specialty.

So this dark room saga and me dozing off continued for a few days. I guess I didn't learn as much as I had hoped. I think with radiology, it is one specialty where you just need to sit down with a book of examples and go through them at your own pace. It is nice to have someone there pointing stuff out, but I found that the radiologists does them really quickly as they're well-experienced, but for an untrained eye like mine...I really need to sit there and admire the abnormality and compare it with "normal".

Really not that exciting of a week. Starting another specialty next the looks of it, it isn't that exciting. I do have Orthopaedics coming up in a few weeks so definitely looking forward to that. It's been awhile since I've been in theatres (since electives) and it'll be nice to be back in there!

Sunday, September 15, 2013

I'm Baaack!

Shocker - I'm back! Most of you probably thought I fell off the planet or medical school had simply killed me. Actually what had happened is that after my placements in May I had left for my medical elective for 2 months. I went back to Canada to do my medical elective guessed it: Orthopaedics. It was tough - and that's putting it lightly. I have not worked as hard as I had during my medical elective than any of my last 4 years at medical school. So once I got back I was seriously burnt out while my friends were burnt from their lovely sun filled elective in the beautiful/tropic parts of the world such as: Thailand, Vietnam, Fiji...I am feeling my blood pressure go up again. To put it in even more simple terms - I was miserable during my elective and very jealous of my friends who had a tropical and fun-filled elective to discover themselves.

Why was my elective so tough?

Well North American medical school will always have its stereotype to uphold. My mornings started at 6:30 am and my day didn't end until 6pm and that's me sneaking off early. Despite being a visiting elective student I was expected to still do 24 hour on-calls. Yes there were a few days especially in the first 2 weeks where I wanted to go and hide in a corner and cry. I've never been told off so much in medical school as much as I had during my first 4 week rotation. Apologies I have to leave out details as it will make me very easily identifiable if I start specifying EXACTLY what sub-specialty I was doing. I remember telling my parents several times I would quit. I nearly walked out of clinic many times. I walked out of the operating room once after being unfairly treated. This elective definitely pushed my limits to the max. When I reached my 2nd rotation of 4 weeks - I was back in my comfort zone. Let's say the first 4 weeks was a very steep learning curve and one I hope to never go through again. Looking back at it, I'm glad I got my ass-whipped as not only did I never work so hard before, but I have never learnt so much before in such a short amount of time. I had to gain A LOT of self-confidence and was pushed to the deep end of the pool during my elective and I'm glad the consultant pushed me that hard. I would have never learned...but with that, I sacrificed the enjoyment of the elective. I guess it's a fine balance.

When I returned to the UK I was just so burnt out. I didn't get much of a summer holiday. I was back to placements and well let's just say placement seemed extremely SLOW compared to Canada. I had a hard time adjusting back and consultants thought I was overly too proactive. It's a very different system here in the UK. In Canada I felt like I had to fight for my learning opportunities and I learned by falling flat on my face a million times. In the UK, we are spoon-fed our learning opportunities. There isn't a huge competition atmosphere in the UK. I was with other medical students in Canada and I found myself fighting to get to scrub in and fighting to see patients. As a student in the UK I feel like sometimes we take it for granted the amount of learning opportunities we get. Anyways there isn't much to talk about my elective. If I had to sum it up in one sentence it would go like this: Worked my ass off, but came out more mature and wiser and perhaps a hell lot more worn out. To be honest I still don't know what to think of my elective. Don't get me wrong, I was lucky to have got an elective in Canada in a major city in a very popular specialty, so I don't regret it at all.

Hopefully I'll start updating a bit more, however, final exams are coming up so I am a lot busier than usual now. Currently doing my General Practice rotation so who knows maybe I'll find time. Sorry again for the lack of updates...just had a rough few months.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Urology - Week 1

Sorry for the lack of updates. The weird thing with this rotation is that I'm running through all the other specialities: ENT, Ophthalmology, Urology, Haematology, Dermatology, and Oncology. I only get either 1 or 2 weeks in each specialty. You can imagine I only get a quick glimpse of everything and so far nothing interesting has happened.

Because I am now on Urology and have got 2 weeks here, I thought it would be worth doing a bit of an update. So we were inducted into the specialty on the Monday and were pretty much scared stiff. The urology department at our hospital is an academic department as well so they have academic ward rounds and really encourage full participation from students. You will probably wonder: "So what's wrong with that? That's great isn't it?" Well yes, that's great as we get loads of teaching, but that means we got to work twice as hard as we are expected to do presentations. I don't mind working hard, it's just our presentations have to  be a case study on an inaptient. With how our schedules are, we don't have much time on the wards as we are timetabled to be in clinics/theatre. We were also told that consultants expect us all to be prepared for clinics/theatre and expect us to do our reading beforehand.

Biggest heart sinker? On theatre days we are expected to go to Theatre Admissions Unit (TAU) at 7:30am to get a brief patient history for all the patients on the list and be prepared to tell the surgeon all about the patient in theatre. Don't get me wrong, I love going to theatre, I just don't enjoy this horrifically early wake-up. I've been quite lucky with not needing to go to TAU in prior placements as the consultants I have been placed with don't require me to go to TAU and talk to the patient ahead of time so I usually get to theatre at around 8:30am. Anyways so Tuesday was my theatre day and I was placed with the academic lead for Urology (perfect...). Being a bit scared, I obviously head to TAU at 7:30am and talked to the 2 patients who were on the theatre list. As I was finishing up the consultant shows up and was actually quite surprised to see me in TAU. I was then promptly quizzed about the 2 patients and about their procedures. Luckily I did a bit of reading before I saw the consultant so everything was fresh in my mind. Think I impressed him as I got the nod of approval and the brief grilling seized.

At theatre, I met with the registrar and was warned I will probably get a full grilling on anatomy and should do some reading while the consultant isn't around. Read up on the prostate and bladder, which wasn't too difficult. I've always remembered the general rule for surgery is to know the blood supply, lymph drainage, and nerve supply for that organ, and you'll be alright. 30 minutes into a cystectomy, the consultant asked me for the blood, lymph, and nerve supply for the bladder. Check. Check. And check. The greatest bit was when he looked over to me in awe and proceeded to go quiet until lunch time. Just going to dust my shoulders off now. Now here comes a curve-ball, I was then shown a muscle and was asked what it was. Thankfully due to my "love" for orthopaedics and hip/knee anatomy, I immediately recognized the muscle as the psoas. Then another dead pan from the consultant who then went quiet again. Then he asked about the path of the Obturator nerve and what it innervates. Easy as I've been quizzed on that before by an orthopaedic consultant for fun not too long ago. As I finished my answer, the consultant put his scissors down and remarked that he'll sign me off for the next 2 weeks. He seemed really impressed and well I obviously felt good for once and not like a complete idiot. I was quite lucky with the questions though as usually it is a hit or miss. Was a fairly good day!

Rest of the week was fairly...dull. Went to a haematuria/cystoscopy clinic and did a bit of ward work, where I found myself being the cannula/bloods monkey again. Was nice being able to put cannulas in again as it has been awhile since I've put one in and I was worried I would lose the skill, but looking at my 100% in one go rate on the ward, think I'm still alright! All in all - okay week. Not very stimulating. Not very interesting. Escaped presentation - think it was partly due to my "good play" in theatre. Hopefully next week will go just as well!

Friday, April 12, 2013

1 Week ENT.

Well I'm back to "work". Had a week of ENT...which has been fairly uneventful. Went to a few adult and children ear/head/neck clinics. The clinics actually run quite quickly, but I'm not sure if it is because the surgeons are efficient or the cases in general are more simple. Think it is the former. Anyways it has been a fairly frustrating placement. Because it is half-term, a lot of the consultants are away so a lot of clinics/theatre lists are cancelled. Obviously being a medical student, we don't get told about the schedule changes, so we don't find out until we get to clinic/theatre. Just one of those skills you need as a student: Adaptation. Need to be able to think on your feet and figure out what are you going to do with your time. I found myself running between hospitals quite a bit - I guess it's a good workout! Absolute pain though.

To be entirely honest - my impression of ENT surgeons before I started the placement was: "a bunch of arrogant surgeons". I am so glad I was proven wrong. They were all really nice and are really keen to teach. Don't know where did I get that impression from. Then again most impressions/stereotypes are no longer accurate. One thing I will admit is that the surgeries that ENT surgeons do are remarkable and beautiful. So delicate and intricate, but it works! I assisted in a myringoplasty and laryngectomy. Just amazing. Myringoplasty is where a perforation in the ear drum is replaced by a graft which you get from the fascia lying over the skull. Everything is done under a microscope. Admittedly my eyes were hurting after, but it was quite a beautiful surgery. They work in such a small space and still manage to do it with a lot of precision. Also watching them place a graft over the perforation and finding ways to support the graft while it heals with the rest of the ear drum...just can't describe it in words. Whoever thought up of these surgeries - genius. On the other hand - laryngectomy - massive incision requiring neck dissection. Saw so much great anatomy. Also got to scrub in and close up in the end (after hours of retracting). This surgery showed me why some people absolutely dread surgery. Never understood it until that day. My hands were cramping so much that I couldn't feel them anymore at one point. Guess my reward in the end was closing up. Suturing will always make a keen medical student's (interested in surgery) day better. Got to learn a new type of suturing technique, which is quite challenging. Took a few goes for me to get a hang of it, but eventually I managed to get a hang of it and I don't think I did too bad. Got it checked over, and got the nod of approval. Was quite satisfied with myself!

The thing I noticed in my very short 1 week stint in ENT was that you see a lot of cancers in adults and a lot of ear infection/tonsillitis in children clinics. Such contrasting conditions. Overall the attachment was too short...but in a way I was relieved that it was over because it was so disorganized. I was really fed up with running around looking for the right clinics and going between hospitals to go to a different theatre list. Then the consultant wouldn't be expecting a student and you have to explain, etc etc. Life of a medical student!

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Quick Update.

As some of you have noticed...I have disappeared for a few weeks. I do apologise for the sudden disappearance. After my A&E placement, I pretty much dashed off to the airport and was off for holiday. So now I am back and will be starting my next rotation of specialties in a few days. I start with Opthalmology and ENT for 2 weeks. 

Stay tuned for some new adventures!