The first day in the life of a medical student

So that was Day 1 of my life as a medical student.  Despite all my fears that I’d oversleep I was awake not so bright, but definitely early, thanks to the thundering of 3 cats back and forth across the laminate flooring.  Both the cats and I will be glad once they can go outside and burn off some of their excess energy!

Medical SchoolThe medical school has been undergoing quite some renovations since my interview last December, which posed some additional challenges when trying to find my way around today. Fortunately the lecture theatre was well signposted, but I can’t say the same of the bathrooms, unfortunately.  Work on the lecture theatres themselves is still ongoing, but hopefully by the time we complete the Principles block and start coming up to Ninewells everyday, the first new lecture theatre should also be completed.

We have a very mixed bag of lectures for the next 8 weeks, and today was no exception.  We got off to a very interactive start with a lecture entitled ‘The Patient has the floor’, in which a volunteer played the part of a patient visiting a GP surgery, and the lecturer, with our (surely invaluable!) help, elicited his story and came to a diagnosis. I think it’s quite representative of the principles behind the teaching in Dundee that our first lecture was not really designed to teach us medical facts (although we certainly picked up a few along the way), but gave us our first lesson in how to be doctor.

Our second lecture continued the theme of General Practice, introducing us to another strand of the course in which we’ll be working with local GPs and visiting their surgeries.  Our first surgery visit will be next week, and I’m very curious to see the ins and outs of a working surgery.

The next few weeks will be very heavily focused on the scientific knowledge required as a doctor, and our last lecture of the morning was our first of the series of anatomy lectures coming up.  With 3 lectures a week, anatomy is going to be a big focus for the next while, and I’m already wondering how to keep on top of all the terminology being thrown at us. In the event, we didn’t have too much to learn in this first lecture, as again a large proportion of the time was just setting the ground rules and explaining what will be expected of us. We’ll have our first workshop on Friday, in which we’ll be getting our first test.

After 3 hours sitting in a lecture theatre, it was quite a relief to take a break.  I’d managed to get myself off to a good start by preparing lunch in advance (thanks to accidentally cooking up a huge pan of lentils, I have enough food to get me through the whole week, I think!) as had many of my colleagues, so we pulled together a couple tables in the cafe and exchanged experiences.  I’m really pleased about how quickly I’m getting to know people, and now finally to remember a few names.  I’ve been amazed at how many people have recognised me from our medics Facebook group.

With a little time before our afternoon lecture, we went to find the library.  One of the first results of the renovation was the new library which has only just been opened. It’s a lovely bright space with lots of windows, including some medically themed stained glass, and has both plenty of plug sockets for laptops and lots of computers. It looks like a pretty good place to study, although even on the first day of term, very busy.

After an explanatory lecture, the afternoon saw us split up into smaller groups for the first time. The year has been divided into 4 groups A-D, each of which is further subdivided into groups 1-4.  My group C4 has 7 members and we’ll stick together for the next 3 years for all sorts of small group activities.  I’ve heard that our year has only about 120 students, smaller than average to compensate for a very large second year.  As a result our groups are also smaller than normal, giving us all the opportunity to contribute a lot more than we might otherwise.

Our first task is to examine the curriculum outcomes, which are organised under the three themes Doctor as a Scholar/Scientist, Doctor as a Practitioner and Doctor as a Professional, in the context of an example scenario of an unconscious patient. We’ve been given two scenarios and we have to present them to the rest of group C next Monday.  After a couple of hours of brainstorming, we brought the session and our first day as medical students to a close.  Leaving the building and emerging into the warm sunshine I was struck by the fact that I hadn’t made it outside all day, and indeed had spent most of the day in dark, windowless lecture theatres. Although the routine for the next few weeks, with a lunchtime migration from the city campus to Ninewells will be less convenient, I think I’m going to appreciate the excuse to get outside during the midday break.

And now I have a confession to make.  Tonight was Gaudie Night, the night when first years get together with their medic parents for a big night out.  Me?  Well, after a bit of work in the garden, and a quick look through the slides for Tuesday’s lectures, I was in bed by 10pm and fast asleep before the party even really got going.

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Natasha is from the UK, but has been working as a software developer in The Netherlands for the past 13 years. She's moving to Dundee on a permanent basis with her 3 cats, and is going to be studying Medicine.

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