I'm a 4th year medical student, on placement taking swabs for Covid 19- AMA

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Toyin- student at UEA
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My name is Toyin and as the title illustrates, I am a 4th year medical student at UEA.
Originally, I’m from Great Yarmouth, a seaside town that’s 40 minutes from the university (so I haven’t come from far at all).

With 4 years under my belt, I can truly say I have experienced a range of things throughout my university experience: from academic highs/lows to the hustle and bustle of a student social life.

However, no one could have predicted a pandemic to be added to the mix! And what an experience it has been. As a result, the year most medical students at UEA look forward to has been cut short with me missing out on certain aspects - e.g. the elective of a lifetime! (Let’s just cry for a moment please).

Nonetheless, the seriousness of Covid-19 cannot be ignored. And nor can the strain it threatened to put on the NHS. As a result, I choose to volunteer as a medical student in the local hospital near UEA where for a month I worked on the wards, assisting medical staff where possible. I can honestly say it was a valuable experience, one I won’t forget and despite the circumstances, I am truly grateful I had that opportunity.

Currently, I am still helping out at the hospital, but due to the reduced strain on the wards, I have now moved over to the role of a swabbing assistant, where I help suspected cases of Covid-19 complete a self-swab via a drive thru system.

So if you have any questions about Covid-19, my role on the wards or how swabbing life is treating me, this is what I’m here for so please do ask away! I’ll do my best to answer them as accurately as I can!

In addition, if you have any general questions about university, about UEA specifically or medicine etc, I will do my best to answer them or direct you to the people who can!

So go on, ask me anything - you know you want to!
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Have you had to be tested yourself? What does being tested actually involve and how long does it take?
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Tell us more about drive-thru, how does it work and how are the locals taking to it?
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cupcake2012
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I've tried to start writing my personal statement but I just don't know where to start! I tried making a list of everything I might want to put in there and a few ways it links to medicine but I have no clue how to piece everything together, or how to avoid making my personal statement sound cliche?

I'm also wondering if writing about COVID19 on my personal statement will be worth it because again I feel like most people will have the same things to say about the situation and I don't want to use words writing something that doesn't make my PS stand out?? any tips??

Also how long before the UCAT do you recommend beginning to prepare?
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IBkidinthecorner
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Hi, this is less to do with covid and more just medicine in general, but I'm currently deciding on which med schools to apply to and was wondering what your experience at UEA has been like so far? Are the professors good, are there extracurriculars? etc.
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What was the elective you wanted to do? What is your favourite thing about being a medical student?
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Do you think i can get into medicine with a grade C in gcse biology and no a level in biology(my school did not let me do it) while my 3 a levels are chemistry, physics and maths which i am doing well in?
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(Original post by Toyin- student at UEA)
My name is Toyin and as the title illustrates, I am a 4th year medical student at UEA.
Originally, I’m from Great Yarmouth, a seaside town that’s 40 minutes from the university (so I haven’t come from far at all).

With 4 years under my belt, I can truly say I have experienced a range of things throughout my university experience: from academic highs/lows to the hustle and bustle of a student social life.

However, no one could have predicted a pandemic to be added to the mix! And what an experience it has been. As a result, the year most medical students at UEA look forward to has been cut short with me missing out on certain aspects - e.g. the elective of a lifetime! (Let’s just cry for a moment please).

Nonetheless, the seriousness of Covid-19 cannot be ignored. And nor can the strain it threatened to put on the NHS. As a result, I choose to volunteer as a medical student in the local hospital near UEA where for a month I worked on the wards, assisting medical staff where possible. I can honestly say it was a valuable experience, one I won’t forget and despite the circumstances, I am truly grateful I had that opportunity.

Currently, I am still helping out at the hospital, but due to the reduced strain on the wards, I have now moved over to the role of a swabbing assistant, where I help suspected cases of Covid-19 complete a self-swab via a drive thru system.

So if you have any questions about Covid-19, my role on the wards or how swabbing life is treating me, this is what I’m here for so please do ask away! I’ll do my best to answer them as accurately as I can!

In addition, if you have any general questions about university, about UEA specifically or medicine etc, I will do my best to answer them or direct you to the people who can!

So go on, ask me anything - you know you want to!
Aspiring med student here - being brutally honest was it worth it? How many hours do you have to revise per week to keep up? And most importantly is it more enjoyable than A-levels?
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Toyin- student at UEA
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(Original post by Anonymous)
Have you had to be tested yourself? What does being tested actually involve and how long does it take?
Thank you for the question!

I have not been tested, although I know that they are offering tests to staff members as well as carers in the local community.

As I mentioned in the descriptions, swabbing takes place in a drive thru system, so suspected patients should arrive in a car that they are driving themselves or can be driven by a member from the same household (they should not arrive in taxis or be brought by someone of another household). Each person that arrives for the swab will do the swab themselves. Even if a child arrives, we ideally get the parent to swab the child. However, if they are unable to/struggling, we would take over. The only instance when we swab the patient is if they are pre-op patients (so before any surgery that is being scheduled at present).
The test involves taking a vaginal swab brush and firstly placing it in the mouth. It needs to go to the back of the throat, to hit the tonsil region. Most people gag at that point but then you know you're in the right position. Once you've hit the tonsils, you then swabs both tonsils a couple times.
With the same swab you used in the mouth, you then will need to swab each nostril. In order to accurately swab the nostrils, we tell people to tilt their heads back and guide the swab in about 2-3cm. We also tell them to open their mouths and remember to keep breathing as it helps take their mind off the swab in their nostril. Once you are in the right position, you then turn the swab a few times. You then repeat this same process in the next nostril. Now, you're all done so you pop the swab into a tube and hand back to the swabbing assistants (aka. someone like me). Then you are free to go.
Results usually arrive in 24 hours.

Hope that helps makes sense of what would happen!
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Toyin- student at UEA
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Thank you for the questions!

In terms of the driven thru, I have spoken about how that works in another post (which I have added in this response).

In terms of how the locals are taking to it, I assume it's quite well as patients who believe they are symptomatic have attended these appointments as well as healthcare workers. They are testing up to 100 patients a day. However, I will admit that the days I have worked, there has only been about 50 patients.
(Original post by Anonymous)
Tell us more about drive-thru, how does it work and how are the locals taking to it?
(Original post by Toyin- student at UEA)
Thank you for the question!

I have not been tested, although I know that they are offering tests to staff members as well as carers in the local community.

As I mentioned in the descriptions, swabbing takes place in a drive thru system, so suspected patients should arrive in a car that they are driving themselves or can be driven by a member from the same household (they should not arrive in taxis or be brought by someone of another household). Each person that arrives for the swab will do the swab themselves. Even if a child arrives, we ideally get the parent to swab the child. However, if they are unable to/struggling, we would take over. The only instance when we swab the patient is if they are pre-op patients (so before any surgery that is being scheduled at present).
The test involves taking a vaginal swab brush and firstly placing it in the mouth. It needs to go to the back of the throat, to hit the tonsil region. Most people gag at that point but then you know you're in the right position. Once you've hit the tonsils, you then swabs both tonsils a couple times.
With the same swab you used in the mouth, you then will need to swab each nostril. In order to accurately swab the nostrils, we tell people to tilt their heads back and guide the swab in about 2-3cm. We also tell them to open their mouths and remember to keep breathing as it helps take their mind off the swab in their nostril. Once you are in the right position, you then turn the swab a few times. You then repeat this same process in the next nostril. Now, you're all done so you pop the swab into a tube and hand back to the swabbing assistants (aka. someone like me). Then you are free to go.
Results usually arrive in 24 hours.

Hope that helps makes sense of what would happen!
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Toyin- student at UEA
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Thank you cupcake2012 for your question!

Firstly, don't be too hard of yourself! Personal statements are hard to write and I had to write 2 medical ones (as I didn't get in the first time).

What have you considered putting in the personal statement?

What I will do is give you a breakdown of what I included and sort of the general template I believe a lot of applicants use.
Firstly, my opening paragraph related to my interest in the medical field; as to how it came about to be. So for some people, they've had a relative with a longterm condition and they've seen how it's affected them. Or it may be you who has endured many hospital visits. Sometimes, it can be something you read regarding the medical field that inspired you. Just illustrate to them where this interest stemmed from. Wanting to help people will probably come out here but find an interesting way to spin it if you can.

The next paragraph I had included my work experience, so what I had done to gain insight into the madness that is medicine. As much as they want to know what you did, they want to know more what you learnt. Did anything surprise you? What really intrigued you? You will be limited for words but I promise you can truly showcase your lessons learnt in a few lines. Also, don't forget to appreciate other people who work in the medical field because doctors may seem like geniuses behind every medical success, but hopefully, your work experience would have shown you that there are some many other members of staff that help patients in hospital.

Next, you want to consider taking about the current subjects you are doing for A-level in prep for this future career you're excited about. Is there particular part of the course that helped inspire you?

Medical schools want to know they will be selecting well-rounded students. So it is important to include you're extracurricular activities. What are some of them? And then if they are the loves of your life, can't see yourself living without them, then mention how you intend to keep them up at uni. They want to know you can maintain a work-life balance. What's even better is if you can look at the universities you are applying to, look into their societies/sports clubs and see if they offer things that excite you to go to uni/things you will consider trying if you get the opportunity to make this big next step etc.

Finally, you want to round of the statement. You want to say that you hope that this statement illustrates your desire and overwhelming interest in pursing this career. That you hope that this statement has highlighted qualities that make you a suitable fit to be a doctor and that you hope they will be a part of the journey of helping you achieve that major milestone or something of that nature. Just bring everything together.

I hope that helps. It's been a while since I wrote one now but let me know if you have any more questions!

(Original post by cupcake2012)
I've tried to start writing my personal statement but I just don't know where to start! I tried making a list of everything I might want to put in there and a few ways it links to medicine but I have no clue how to piece everything together, or how to avoid making my personal statement sound cliche?

I'm also wondering if writing about COVID19 on my personal statement will be worth it because again I feel like most people will have the same things to say about the situation and I don't want to use words writing something that doesn't make my PS stand out?? any tips??

Also how long before the UCAT do you recommend beginning to prepare?
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Toyin- student at UEA
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(Original post by Toyin- student at UEA)
Thank you cupcake2012 for your question!

Firstly, don't be too hard of yourself! Personal statements are hard to write and I had to write 2 medical ones (as I didn't get in the first time).

What have you considered putting in the personal statement?

What I will do is give you a breakdown of what I included and sort of the general template I believe a lot of applicants use.
Firstly, my opening paragraph related to my interest in the medical field; as to how it came about to be. So for some people, they've had a relative with a longterm condition and they've seen how it's affected them. Or it may be you who has endured many hospital visits. Sometimes, it can be something you read regarding the medical field that inspired you. Just illustrate to them where this interest stemmed from. Wanting to help people will probably come out here but find an interesting way to spin it if you can.

The next paragraph I had included my work experience, so what I had done to gain insight into the madness that is medicine. As much as they want to know what you did, they want to know more what you learnt. Did anything surprise you? What really intrigued you? You will be limited for words but I promise you can truly showcase your lessons learnt in a few lines. Also, don't forget to appreciate other people who work in the medical field because doctors may seem like geniuses behind every medical success, but hopefully, your work experience would have shown you that there are some many other members of staff that help patients in hospital.

Next, you want to consider taking about the current subjects you are doing for A-level in prep for this future career you're excited about. Is there particular part of the course that helped inspire you?

Medical schools want to know they will be selecting well-rounded students. So it is important to include you're extracurricular activities. What are some of them? And then if they are the loves of your life, can't see yourself living without them, then mention how you intend to keep them up at uni. They want to know you can maintain a work-life balance. What's even better is if you can look at the universities you are applying to, look into their societies/sports clubs and see if they offer things that excite you to go to uni/things you will consider trying if you get the opportunity to make this big next step etc.

Finally, you want to round of the statement. You want to say that you hope that this statement illustrates your desire and overwhelming interest in pursing this career. That you hope that this statement has highlighted qualities that make you a suitable fit to be a doctor and that you hope they will be a part of the journey of helping you achieve that major milestone or something of that nature. Just bring everything together.

I hope that helps. It's been a while since I wrote one now but let me know if you have any more questions!

(Original post by cupcake2012)
cupcake2012

I forgot to mention about covid - I think it would wise to mention it. But try to find an interesting take on it - have you read into the new vaccine or treatment? How you read about how covid put strain on the NHS as well as other health services around the world? Have you read into the affect of the infection on mental health? Make sure you do your reading, and hopefully, if you get some interviews, be sure to have read those/that article(s) before your interviews in case they ask

Be well versed in corona because I would put money where my mouth is and say that I think it will come up in interviews, especially this year. I would be surprised if they didn't.

Also, in terms of the UCAT, I suggest starting when you have time, slow and steady. You don't have to do loads of revision a day but keep it consistent. If you go to the UCAT official site, I believe they offer guidance on how best to prep for it!
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Thank you IBkidinthecorner for your question!

So in terms of UEA, I will start of simple and say yes, I have enjoyed my medical school experience at UEA. It wasn't my top choice simply because I am so local so I had the dream of flying far away for uni. But I am extremely grateful that I go to UEA (not paid to say that, just mean it!)

Reasons I like it so much is:
(1) The campus style - when I first got to uni, I was so lazy so knowing that everything was within a good walking distance was perfect. You don't have the stress of needing to bus across a city to get to lectures.
(2) Medical school - the style of teaching at UEA compliments my learning style very well. I love that it's very clinical so I get to hands on from week 1 of year 1. Also, the way core content is delivered is in more of an independent style but withe lectures and seminars to support it.
(3) Social/extra-curricular aspects - there is a wide range of social and extracurricular activities to get involved with. They have societies ranging the pasta society to your more standard ones like the African-Caribbean society. There are student club nights held twice a week, right at the centre of campus which are always so popular due to the convenience of them.

There is so much more to UEA so do let me know if you want any more details - like is there anything specifically you would want to know about?

Also, I would suggest having a look at the UEA website as I know that there is lots more information, even virtual talks about UEA life (due to the COVID cancelling everything!)

But I hope I have helped!
(Original post by IBkidinthecorner)
Hi, this is less to do with covid and more just medicine in general, but I'm currently deciding on which med schools to apply to and was wondering what your experience at UEA has been like so far? Are the professors good, are there extracurriculars? etc.
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Toyin- student at UEA
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Thank you for your question!

So my elective (CRYING ) was suppose to be a 4 week placement (just like the placement you carry out after each module) in the PHILIPPINES! It was going to be amazing I was sure of it. I was hoping to get more experience in psychiatry as I really love the field as well as experience in obstetrics and gynaecology (women's health & pregnancy) and maybe even paediatrics (children).
What was even more exciting was I was going to be going with a friend which was so nice. And then after the elective was over, I was going to travel the Philippines for a bit, then head down to Australia (a place I have always wanted to visit) for 2 weeks before flying home with a 2 day stay in Singapore staying at...(wait for it)...the MARINA BAY SANDS! (check it out!)
So I will always be sad I couldn't go but it couldn't be helped.

Onto the next part - my most favourite part of being a medical student? That is hard but I think it will have to be for me, seeing my own development each year as I get closer to finishing. When I first started, I was like woah, 5 years is long and how will I ever know all I need. I am not perfect now, but being in 4th year, I am amazed by how much I know and understand now. And I am almost scared of finishing when I will be left alone as such, no more shadowing doctors but being asked to take responsibility. I am glad I am intercalating before I finish

(Original post by Anonymous)
What was the elective you wanted to do? What is your favourite thing about being a medical student?
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Toyin- student at UEA
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Thank you DumbStudent:( for your question!

In terms of getting into medicine with grade C, I am unsure as I know that each medical school view grades differently. So my best advice would be to check the entry criteria of each medical school you are interested to see what your chance are. If they do not look great, I would consider 'shopping' around for medical schools so see which ones will take your grade C.
Another option would be to consider the foundation medical programme (6 year course instead of 5 years) as that would be another route in. Your A level subjects are fine and will not hinder you.
Another option to consider would be to repeat the GCSE you got a C in. My younger sister was in a similar situation as you, wanting to apply for medicine but her grade in English wasn't strong enough and then she repeated it, and she improved. Even when her AS levels didn't go well, she still managed to get 2 medical school offers and she is will hopefully be attending one of them in September.

So don't be discouraged just yet. Find out what your options are and try to give yourself the best chance.
I hope I have helped and if you have any more questions, do not hesitate to ask!
(Original post by DumbStudent:()
Do you think i can get into medicine with a grade C in gcse biology and no a level in biology(my school did not let me do it) while my 3 a levels are chemistry, physics and maths which i am doing well in?
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Toyin- student at UEA
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Thank you sam72016 for your question!

Wow, I love the 'brutally honest' part of your question - made me chuckle!
But being honest, I will say I have questioned it many a times because sometimes, it doesn't feel worth it. Why do I say that? It comes more so from the fact that life doesn't just stop for you while you're trying to do this challenging degree so when your personal life is difficult as well as academics, it can feel like you're fighting a losing battle. That sounds negative I know but that is how it felt at the lowest of times.
However, when I am at the lowest, I also ask myself, if I wasn't doing this, is there something else I could imagine myself doing? The answer is always NO and then I remember why I am doing this. And it's because as much as I want to pull my hair out sometimes, I know that deep down, I love the way the field makes me feel. I love how I can come alive when I am talking to my mum about something interesting I learnt. I love how I fell in love with psychiatry this year and haven't been able to stop thinking about how I get a career in it.
Those moments make up for the more difficult ones.

In terms of work regimen, most medical students will find a routine that works for them. I find that I work by myself (excluding lectures/seminars) about 5 hours a day, maybe less at the weekend in order for me to feel like I am on top of everything. But people say I am a perfectionist and go a bit crazy on the work front. You just have to find a rhythm that works for you and as along as you are keeping up with the content, you're doing something right!

I definitely enjoy it more than A-levels because it's more of the stuff I always wanted to know - the human body rather than plant biology and lots of different molecular formulas. I cannot speak for every medical course, but at UEA, it was great when we finally got started on the clinical conditions and formulating clinical reasoning. It can be hard but it is definitely interesting stuff!

I hope I have answered your question - don't hesitate to ask me anything more!
(Original post by sam72016)
Aspiring med student here - being brutally honest was it worth it? How many hours do you have to revise per week to keep up? And most importantly is it more enjoyable than A-levels?
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You ptobably get this question a lot, but do you know of any medicine students with long-term mental health difficulties such as anxiety or depression? If so, how has it affected them as doctors, and how do they (or you) manage the stress that comes with medical school and being a doctor? You can be brutally honest with me; my parents are trying to discourage me from pursuing post-grad medicine as they just don't think I'm cut out for it but I can't shake the determination that this is what I want to do with my life. I don't know if I'm being naive in wanting to follow this path as I'm naturally a fairly highly-strung, anxious person.

Thanks for all of your replies to the other questions by the way, they're extremely interesting to read
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I was recently gifted an anatomy colouring book that pairs as a revision guide, do you think it's worth me starting to go over the important organs like heart, brain etc or should I just put the book to the side for now and save it for when I actually start medical school? - which would hopefully be this September.
Also, how important is anatomy in medical school, do you have to remember a lot of it? and would you say its hard?

Its a shame about your elective it sounded great! I was just wondering if you get to choose your own elective, like in which country it takes place in? and what specialities you do? Or do you pick from a selection of electives? Also, do you pay for your elective?

Finally, you mentioned being very interested in Psychiatry, would you say that you have come to a decision as to which speciality you want to pursue in the future? If so is this common in fourth year? I'm asking as there are so many specialities that I am interested in but have no idea how to narrow it down and fear that by the end of fifth year I will still be indecisive.

Thanks
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Toyin- student at UEA
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Thank you for your question! And you're welcome, I am more than happy to answer!

In terms of mental health, I know that is a very prevalent amongst medical students in some form. Talking from personal experience, I recently dealt with my own mental health, facing problems from many years ago as well as grief that I chose to ignore (losing my best friend). As a result, it made it difficult to feel motivated to do the course during my 2nd year of the degree as well as most recently, when I started to seek help for the course. It got to the point where last year, I considered taking time out for the 2nd time during the course (I contemplated it during my 2nd year when I lost my friend).
I didn't choose to inform my medical school directly but I did talk to tutors on the course for guidance and found myself a counsellor, in order to start dealing with the problems.

So my advice is if you suffer from anxiety, being aware of it is key. But most importantly, recognise when it is escalating and try not to be scared to ask for help. Because it will make a huge difference. There are so many ways to still become a doctor without neglecting your own personal needs.

I understand your parents' concern as the course can be challenging but the real question is, do you think you can handle it? Do you have the tools to look after yourself, know where to get help if you're struggling more with your mental health? If you can answer yes to those questions, then do not let your parents dissuade you because no-one knows you better than yourself. So if you're determined, I say shoot you shot and see where you end up. Do this for you and show them that you could do it too!

Plus, if it helps, many times I thought I wouldn't make it through this degree and now, I am almost at the finish line!

In addition, UEA medical school now has a designated Wellbeing lead who offers drop in clinics or has an email service so that you can get in touch if you feel like you're struggling. And I am sure many other medical schools offer a similar service!

I hope that has answered your question - if you want to talk anymore about it or have any other questions, don't hesitate to ask! And if you wish to talk to someone, I am most definitely here if you need!!
(Original post by Anonymous)
You ptobably get this question a lot, but do you know of any medicine students with long-term mental health difficulties such as anxiety or depression? If so, how has it affected them as doctors, and how do they (or you) manage the stress that comes with medical school and being a doctor? You can be brutally honest with me; my parents are trying to discourage me from pursuing post-grad medicine as they just don't think I'm cut out for it but I can't shake the determination that this is what I want to do with my life. I don't know if I'm being naive in wanting to follow this path as I'm naturally a fairly highly-strung, anxious person.

Thanks for all of your replies to the other questions by the way, they're extremely interesting to read
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Thank you Mckailer for the questions!

Let's start with the anatomy book - PUT IT AWAY! It is not needed! Enjoy these lockdown days as much as you can! Don't worry about trying to get ahead because you are hopefully going to embark on a 5 year journey of continuous revision and hard work so enjoy the freedom while you can.
Anatomy is important, especially in certain fields like surgery so it will be key to try and keep on top it. Are you attending UEA in September?
If you are, the way they teach anatomy may be very different to other medical schools in terms of the depth as we have a more clinical based course so you sort of learn the anatomy that is clinically relevant rather than 'being able to name all the bones and nerves in the body' if that makes sense?

Thank you! It is a shame about the elective but like I said, no-one could have predicted this pandemic. In terms of your elective, it is up to you where you go. So many students choose to go abroad and make a holiday of it but if you can't afford it, many students still manage to have an exciting elective here in the UK! Depending on how you organised you elective - so if you organise it yourself or if you go with a company (like me because of the ease), you may get a choice of specialities or you may just be allocated one for the entire 4 weeks.
When I picked mine, I went with Work the World, who were great and they allowed me to pick the country that I would like to go. I did have to pay for the elective and most abroad ones, you will have to pay a small few to the hospital to allow them to accommodate for you. All other expenses include flights, accommodation, food and money for fun activities etc.

Don't worry about having lots on interests - that's great and you will find as you go through med school exactly what you like. I know many people started off liking many things and then we experienced the speciality, and now they no longer like it! I on the other hand, had no idea what I really wanted to do. In fact, for the first 2-3 years of the degree, I knew more what I didn't want to do. It is only this year with psychiatry that I found what I want. And it varies from person to person. Some people leave medical school still not knowing what they want to!

What specialities are you interested in?

I hope I have answered all your questions as well as I can - don't hesitate to message if you have any more to ask!

(Original post by Mckailer)
I was recently gifted an anatomy colouring book that pairs as a revision guide, do you think it's worth me starting to go over the important organs like heart, brain etc or should I just put the book to the side for now and save it for when I actually start medical school? - which would hopefully be this September.
Also, how important is anatomy in medical school, do you have to remember a lot of it? and would you say its hard?

Its a shame about your elective it sounded great! I was just wondering if you get to choose your own elective, like in which country it takes place in? and what specialities you do? Or do you pick from a selection of electives? Also, do you pay for your elective?

Finally, you mentioned being very interested in Psychiatry, would you say that you have come to a decision as to which speciality you want to pursue in the future? If so is this common in fourth year? I'm asking as there are so many specialities that I am interested in but have no idea how to narrow it down and fear that by the end of fifth year I will still be indecisive.

Thanks
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