When looking back at the end of medical school, there can be a number of things you wish you’d considered when initially choosing where to study. You might be lucky enough to have medical school still to look forward to. If so, here are the questions you should ask yourself before applying.
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Different medical schools offer clinical placements at different stages of the course. Some medical schools value early patient contact for their students, so they provide weekly or fortnightly clinical placement days from your first year.
Meanwhile, other medical schools won’t offer clinical placements until the third year (or later, if you are intercalating in your third year).
Think about how important it is for you to work with patients and consider how long you want to wait to have this patient contact. Speaking directly with patients can help motivate you in your studies and make you feel more like a ‘real’ medical student.
Some medicine degrees are five years in duration, whereas others are six years. Five year courses generally won’t include an intercalated degree, although some offer an ‘accelerated’ intercalated degree; make sure you check! Six year medicine courses all include a fully intercalated degree.
However, most five year medicine courses will allow their students to intercalate; either internally (in that university) or externally (in a different university). Some medical schools will have ‘restrictions’ on who can intercalate, such as grade requirements.
If you are choosing a five year medicine course, but think you might like to intercalate, then ask some current medical students at the open day how easy it is to intercalate there and how many subjects they’re offered.
Another thing to consider when choosing a medical school is the hospitals their students are placed at. You should talk to medical students at open days, or on online forums, and ask them about their hospital placements.
As well as finding out the names of the hospitals, it’s a good idea to enquire about the size, the number of specialities, and the distance from the university it is. Also take time to consider whether there are any speciality hospitals. Look for paediatric hospitals, psychiatric units and orthopaedic hospitals. Finally, consider how often you would rotate around these hospitals. Would you rather be placed in one hospital for a year or multiple years?
This is one of the most important aspects to consider. Your experience in a cohort of 90 medics in a year will be quite different from a cohort of 350 medics!
Your group size will affect the number of hospitals the medical school works with, as well as the range of friendships that you are able to make. Other aspects like the size and variety of the medical society could be affected too.
Find out how many places there are on the medicine course you are looking at, and then have a think about what your ideal year group size would be.
This could be a specific question you ask of the medical students or admissions tutors at the open days you attend.
It’s quite common for certain hospital placements to require students to stay overnight from Monday to Friday. This usually only applies to hospital placements, which are considered too far from the university to commute in from.
At some universities, every year a handful of students are required to stay in specific accommodation during the working week, while they are on placement at hospital. This shouldn’t cost you any extra, as the accommodation is usually provided free of charge. It will, however, mean that you won’t be staying with your friends in your rented university accommodation Monday to Friday.
Hopefully these questions should help you make a more informed decision about the medical schools you might choose to apply to.
Words: Kirsty Harrison
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