Published on 9th August 2017 by lauram

As many of you will have already found out from scouring through the details of medical school courses across the country, each university varies slightly in its teaching methods. There is, however, a general three-way split between the ways universities deliver their medicine courses. This split is as follows: traditional, integrated or Problem-Based Learning (PBL).

In this article, I am going to focus on traditional teaching, to help you to understand whether this is the right course structure for you.

What is a traditional medicine course?

The traditional method of teaching involves mostly lecture-based and textbook oriented learning for the “pre-clinical” years (often years 1-3), before a defined split for “clinical” years, at which point students then carry out placements in hospitals.

How do I know if I’m suited to a traditional course?

The advantages and disadvantages of using this method are essential in helping you make a decision about whether this style of teaching suits you.

1. Patient contact

This is a crucial component of the traditional medicine course – students do not meet a patient in a clinical environment until they have started the fourth year of their course. If you like the idea of building your knowledge before interacting with patients, then this might be the ideal course for you.

However, this may be unappealing: one of the main reasons students decide to undertake a career in medicine is in order to be able to interact with patients and make a difference to their lives, so not seeing a patient for such a large part of the course may not suit you.

2. Grounding in knowledge

A firm grounding in knowledge may suit your learning style. Peers that I have spoken to from the University of Cambridge claim that they feel much more prepared when starting clinical years, and that the physiology and pathology of diseases have been thoroughly explained and taught so that they feel they are better able to make clinical judgements.

However, this may come with its disadvantages in clinical situations. For example, one student mentioned that they felt they were working at a lower level compared to their peers from other medical schools when it came to performing clinical procedures such as taking blood – so it’s all about how you think you would learn best.

3. Structured approach to learning

One advantage of the traditional style of teaching is its well-structured approach to learning. Each system is taken in turn, with the physiology, pathology, pharmacology and anatomy taught in the same block, which allows for a holistic understanding of the topic.

So: will a traditional course suit you?

A traditional medicine course may suit you if:

  • You enjoy lectures.
  • You would prefer to have patient contact later in the course.
  • You prefer your learning to be structured.

Would you suit a traditional Course? Take the quiz!

Words: Ben Fox


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