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Published on 23rd August 2017 by lauram

Deciding which style of course you want to study can be a key factor in choosing which medical schools to apply to. In this blog, we’ll look at Integrated Courses and their key features to help you decide if this is the right course structure for you.

What is an Integrated Course?

There is often confusion as to what an integrated course actually is, but put quite simply it is one which involves early clinical exposure from the first year, encouraging the use of material learnt through lectures and PBL or tutorial sessions in a clinical setting. This doesn’t mean it is a course which necessarily combines PBL and lecture based teaching (although this often is the case) but that it takes teaching into the clinic from the start of the degree.

The vast majority of medical schools in the UK can be seen as integrated to some extent as it is now the General Medical Council’s recommended degree structure. However, some put more emphasis on this than others. UCL, for example, is technically integrated but actual clinical exposure in the pre-clinical years is minimal, whereas Barts and the London has fortnightly GP placements in the first year and weekly placements in second year. Southampton has lots of early clinical contact and UEA also has early clinical exposure with placements from week one.

What are the key features of an Integrated Course?

There are several key aspects to an integrated course which you can consider in deciding if it’s the course style for you.

  • Early clinical exposure – you will get to apply what you are learning in lectures from a very early stage in your degree, often interviewing patients or observing ward rounds, as well as putting into practice some of the clinical skills you might be learning. This lends itself well to the development of practical skills from the beginning of your degree.
  • Variation in learning – there tends to be a range of different teaching methods consisting of lectures, PBL and practical skills. This is great for people who like variation in their learning and can be a great way to keep things interesting by not focusing on one teaching method.
  • Often in an integrated course you will also find that material is taught via a systems approach, not as separate subjects – i.e. modules in cardiorespiratory comprising of the relevant physiology, anatomy, pharmacology etc, to give you a fuller picture, placing those individual components in direct context with the relevant system.

Is an Integrated Course for you?

The good thing about an integrated course is that it tends to have something for everybody but it might be the course for you if:

  1. You enjoy using a wide variety of different learning techniques including PBL and lectures.
  2. You want to get early clinical exposure to put in practice what you are learning.
  3. You think you would prefer systems based over subject based teaching.
Would you suit an Integrated Course? Take the quiz!

Words: Ruari McGowan

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