Updated: May 21, 2020
By Hithin Noble
You will be constantly examined during your career in medicine- they really do mean it when they say it’s a ‘life-long learning process’, and your time at medical school is no exception. I have just finished my pre-clinical years, and exams have really taught me just how far I have come. Fresh out of Sixth- Form, and the satisfaction of knowing the Krebs Cycle by heart- I entered medical school with a swagger in my step. Nevertheless, what I quickly understood is that the field of medicine is vast. It was like I was a sponge seeping up this pool of knowledge ahead of me: this pool being the size of the Pacific Ocean! With each week, came a new PBL case: new anatomy, new diseases, new psychological models to comprehend. This was enjoyable though. Forget enjoyable, it was enthralling, and it all felt applicable to the real word- I was slowly seeing myself doing this for the rest of my life. From the budding surgeons, to the avid researchers: I love how there is something for everyone within the field. Furthermore, I also now actually understand what’s going on in Grey’s Anatomy- see mum, I’m learning ;).
The main challenge I found initially was how I was meant to balance both understanding and retaining the topics I was learning. Information can be obtained in a variety of ways, from lectures and textbooks, to research publications and the delightful world of YouTube. This was rather overwhelming. What was the right way? The best way to describe this feeling is to imagine I had been given unlimited £20 gift vouchers to Nando’s and had the option to order whatever I wanted. I had never been to Nando’s before, and everything on the menu looks so good, and does the job of filling me up. What should I do? My answer is taking that leap of faith, and not being afraid of making mistakes. Order something on the menu, if you like, it stick with it. If not, try something else. What if you get bored of ordering the same thing? Switch it up. This is exactly my approach with medicine.
Initially I found myself writing away notes based on textbooks, and found this to be unsatisfying, as it was time-consuming, and I felt the only thing I was learning was that certain textbooks made great pillows. However, that’s okay, take the opportunity to try different revision methods out, some might fail, but with some perseverance and patience, others will work. For instance, watching YouTube videos in conjunction with reading textbooks was something that really worked for me. Using a whiteboard, I first taught myself the concepts, and then challenged myself to teach my friends the very same concepts. I was finding myself efficiently going through my PBL cases, and essentially my swagger slowly came back to me.
It is important to consider what works for one person, might not work for someone else: we are all essentially unique. What I think does work though, is working with your fellow cohort. What I love about studying at a PBL- focused course is that this very idea is greatly encouraged. It’s extremely beneficial listening to different people’s perspectives during a PBL session. For starters, it helps you consolidate what you have already learnt, as well as filling in the gaps in your own knowledge: broadening your horizons in areas maybe you haven’t well considered. This idea is not limited to your cohort.
Whilst on placements, I have learnt an extreme amount from patients. This was essentially not restricted to practising my clinical examination and communication skills, something I certainly did not consider. Instead, I have learnt to appreciate the holistic aspect of medicine. These diseases are not just words and diagrams in a textbook, but affect real life patients and their families. It is these experiences that have resonated most with me, and it is these experiences that have been the most effective way I have learnt medicine.
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