Having just completed a first year in medicine as an undergraduate, I am thoroughly satisfied with what I've learnt. Not only was it an educational year, but an experience too. Medicine is more than just going to lectures and cramming for exams - it's a course full of different aspects and skills that need to be learnt.
There are a whole range of medical schools in the UK - about 30 in total to choose from. They all have quite different course structures as I say because there is a lot more to medicine than lectures. My course revolves around problem-based learning, which is a new initiative thought to provoke thinking more and to encourage proper learning in groups. It's really good as although I must be independent, I can always discuss material with my PBL group and they can do so too. Problem-based learning involves reading a medical case, which has lots of ideas and topics within it, before making learning objectives and going away to find out the answers yourself before bringing them back together and discussing them. It sounds quite horrific at first but works really well.
Other parts of my course include lectures, which is where we are led in the right direction with our learning. It's good to make notes off the lectures but I always found it useful to further research certain topics that didn't make full sense or I was more interested in. Having only had 5 a week in year 1 (5 hours in 5 working days), you can imagine that the rest of my timetable was packed with other stuff! However, I still had plenty of time off to work and even make time for socialising and going out, which I feel is an important factor to success in the course. It's good to give yourself some time off as staying in one night to do some work unless you really are behind won't make much difference in the long run and you don't want to get stressed out! I think I got the balance right this year.
We also have done 'experiential learning' sessions in which we learn about other topics linked in to what we're studying. These also revolved around placements we were sent on, which were an excellent addition to the course. Having been to hospitals already in the first year and interviewed many patients with various health attributes, my familiarisation with clinical medicine has advanced well. I am very respective of the dissection facilities we have too, which provides a great aid to learning anatomy - the whole 3D image of the body inside out and the labeling of pretty much everything! Being able to see what you're learning about in real bodies is quite phenomenal, and a huge learning boost.
One topic, histology, has taken up a huge chunk of the year. It's the whole art of looking down a microscope and identifying tissues. We have not done much histopathology so far (looking at diseases in tissues), but we will move onto this next year where we learn integrated pathology. Although it seems to drag on a bit, it's quite an interesting subject as you can see the core of all organs - the cells themselves. I found it really fascinating to be able to identify tumours within tissues too, just from the layout, shapes and structures of the cells. We also did a whole lot of practicals linked to what we were learning including the basics such as basic life support and vital signs. Some more interesting things were covered in microbiology and biomedical classes. As you can see, there's many topics to be covered! The knowledge itself can seem quite overwhelming at first, as you learn a lot of anatomy, physiology and more in a huge range of topics in fair detail. However, with the time aside and some dedication, it's feasible to succeed and do well.
Overall, I am very pleased with what I have achieved so far. I really enjoy the course and would recommend it to anyone wishing to be a doctor. There's a lot more to being a doctor than some people think, so it's important to carefully consider whether you REALLY want to study medicine or not. Some people go in to study it after working so hard for that competitive place, before dropping out! Just imagine all the others that would have really liked to get in. At my university, the ratio for places was something like 12:1, meaning I had to be better than 11 other people to get my place with an interview too. Most medical schools will interview, but the odd few such as Southampton don't, which I think is stupid as you can't really accurately choose future doctors from an application. Medicine requires dedication and perseverance but it's very rewarding too and quite enjoyable to study! I look forward to the rest of my course and can't wait to be a doctor.
Thanks for reading!