Queen’s Belfast’s Medicine five year integrated system-based programme offers various teaching styles from lectures, clinical experience and tutorials. It is one of the few medical schools in the UK that teaches students about anatomy through cadaveric dissections.
During the first two years, the ‘pre-clinical’ phase, the foundations of medicine and clinical practice being established is the primary focus. Students gain knowledge about each body system, with a particular focus on the mechanism of cellular structure and function. Pathology, genetics, therapeutics and microbiology are also studied. The core science principles are integrated with clinical skills training which is acquired through practise with patients and clinical simulations.
Year three is about immersion in practice – which means there is a greater clinical focus. Teaching takes place in every medical and surgical discipline, integrated with pathology and microbiological principles that align with clinical medical practice.
Students have an opportunity to undertake an optional intercalated degree after year two or three.
The two ‘clinical’ years that follow allow students to develop investigative skills through placements at GP surgeries and hospitals. In year four and five students will deepen their knowledge in mental health, cancer, women’s health, child’s health as well as ageing and health. Integrated teaching between primary and secondary care gives students a chance to consolidate and advance their clinical knowledge and skills. An Assistantship is also offered in the final year of this programme in order to slowly ease students into the roles and responsibilities of a junior doctor as well as pursue particular areas of interest.
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- Alexander Jaques
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What are the best things about your Medical School?
- One of my favourite things about studying Medicine at QUB is the early clinical contact. Medicine is the application of hard sciences but relies very strongly on the ability to interact and communicate effectively – these skills are developed from day one. I met my first patient within 10 days of starting the course and I’ve had almost weekly patient interactions since. I’ve found that these opportunities have, even within just a few terms, allowed me to really improve how I communicate with patients.
- The course integrates the theoretical with the practical aspects of science and medicine through the use of semi-weekly full-body dissections, interactive labs and access to CSEC. For all aspects of the pre-clinical years, these sessions complement the taught material and help cement material we’ve learnt.
- Belfast was ranked the cheapest city to live in as a student in the UK! With the social life that comes with living in Ireland, it means you’re never left without something to do! Living in student halls means that you live with both medics and non-medics, and it really gives you a chance to mix with both.
What are the hardest things about your course?
- The course itself is lecture-based, and the material is built upon with small-group tutorials and practical sessions. The material is didactic in nature and over the course of year one, I’ve been having to do more ‘behind-the-scenes’ work than I expected. This work is in the form of pre- and post-reading, digesting and contextualizing what had been taught that day. This took a lot more getting used to than what I expected.
- What struck me within the first few weeks is that Medicine is a marathon, not a sprint; even in the first and second years of medical school, you may be in from early morning until mid-late afternoon on most days. As many others will tell you, don’t be discouraged when you see your friends having mornings off – it will pay off!
- With a very busy daily schedule, it is not uncommon to feel swamped by the workload over the course of just a few days. Thankfully, long Christmas and Easter holidays give you the chance to catch up on any material taught throughout the term that didn’t quite make sense at the time.
What’s the social side of your Medical School like?
Queen’s is host to a wide variety of student-run medical societies, which cater for all interests; be they academic, social, or anywhere in-between!
The medical school and its societies are heavily involved in charity work and it’s something which allows individuals of all ages to get to know each other through shared interests.
Involvement in university sports affords students the opportunity to integrate with both medics and non-medics of all years. The yearly Medic Ball, SWOT Fashion Show and the aptly-named ‘Mystery Tour’ are all events not to be missed!
Amongst the students, there’s definitely a strong ‘work hard, play hard’ ethos which especially comes to the fore around exam times – must be the famous Irish spirit!
What tips would you give to someone applying to your Medical School?
- The interview style used during the application is Multiple Mini Interviews (MMI) and it gives candidates the chance to excel in a variety of different hypothetical situations. Whilst considering universities to apply to, ensure that you play to your strengths to maximise your chances of getting in. A good UCAT score and good GCSE grades will stand you in good stead for that all-important interview! The Queen’s website has a video demonstrating a good interview performance – definitely worth a watch.
- As with any medical school, I would really strongly encourage you to come and visit the university itself and the surrounding city. This city will be a second home for the next 5 years and you should be able to imagine yourself both studying at the university and living here. The city itself caters for all walks of life, and this page is worth visiting to get a better idea of what the city’s like.
- The admissions process to study at Queen’s is partially-based on a points system on your academic achievements. They tend to produce a document yearly which outlines some of their admissions criteria, so read that carefully! Whether you’re a school-leaver, gap year student or a graduate, having a good academic grounding gives you a solid foundation – but make sure not to take your eye off the ball!