A day in the life of a medical student

inside a doctor's surgery

What is it like to study medicine?

Studying medicine is synonymous with a busy schedule; long days and a hefty workload are part of the package.

But what's life like for a trainee doctor? We had a chat with Toyin and George, two students studying medicine at the University of East Anglia (UEA) to find out what being a medical student is all about.



As a medical student, you will find that your timetable isn’t the same as many of your friends on different courses because it can vary so much from week to week.

I am currently a fourth year medical student and I can truly say the journey has been an interesting one so far. As a fourth year, my week goes like this:

You head to your GP placement with your problem-based learning group (PBL) which can vary in locations. The day is usually 9am-5pm, filled with ample opportunities to talk to patients, assessing real-life patients for the conditions you learn about in lectures.

This is when your PBL session takes place. This involves you and usually nine other students discussing the learning outcomes that you were set the week before. They are presented in a variety of ways from a simple presentation to a fun Kahoot. New learning outcomes are distributed, for which lectures in that week should help you gain understanding of the necessary content.

Lecture time! This is where you usually have three one-hour lectures (from 9am-12pm), covering content for the new learning outcomes. For most of the year, you will have the afternoons off (wooooo!) but if you are doing module 11 (psychiatry), these afternoons will be filled with key consultation skills sessions.

This day varies throughout the year. Thursday would usually be occupied with a trip to your GP placement or to secondary care, where you would prepare an audit; a skill you will need throughout your career. On the days you don’t have audit, Thursdays are yours for the taking. Many students use it as a chance to catch up on work (or catch up on sleep if you enjoyed sports night the night before).

Ending on the high note of….more lectures! Lectures again run from 9am-12pm: three one-hour sessions. Occasionally, there will be two lectures in the afternoon, after lunch (about 1pm) – one is usually a cross-module lecture (where the whole year gathers for teaching which is not module specific) while the other is usually a year group lecture relating to a course update or something as exciting as external elective discussions! 



The thing with being a medical student is that you do so much as a part of your course, and as such your days really vary. So I don’t think it’s fair to say 'a day in the life of a medical student', as it is so different every day. Instead, enjoy a week of a medical student!

My week technically starts on a Wednesday. I have PBL (problem-based learning) in the morning, where there’s 10 of us discussing what we’ve covered in the previous week.

We then look at cases from the upcoming week, discuss them and see what research needs to be done. I then have Wednesday afternoon as recreation time, which is a university-wide policy, and so I’ll probably go to the library and then nip home so I can get ready to go climbing at the UEA Sportspark in the evening.

Thursdays and Fridays are lecture days for me and I usually start at 9am on Thursday, finishing at about 3pm with four or five lectures. On Friday I typically start at 10am, have two lectures and then have the afternoon for my SSS (student-selected subject), where I do anatomy. So I’ll have two extra hours in the dissection room before finishing for the day!

Over the weekend is when I catch up with work and social life. Saturdays is social day for me, where I might go into Norwich, go out for food, maybe go to the LCR for a night out, but usually end up watching a film with my partner and having an early night. Sundays are a day for the library, and I’ll write up notes for the week and really try to drill stuff into my skull.

Mondays are again more lectures. Typically one or two in the morning, starting at 9am, and then we’ll have anatomy in the afternoon. We do full-on cadaveric dissection, so in my lunchtime I try to have a big meal to prevent the formaldehyde hunger pangs. I’ll usually do my food shop after anatomy, before settling down at my desk for the night to prepare for GP practice the next day. For this I have to be on campus at 9am to get a coach to arrive for 10am with my PBL group. We spend the day learning clinical skills and speaking to patients.

Tuesday nights go one of two ways. Either I get back, eat and go straight to bed, or we go to the bar where we start to prepare for Tuesday nights at the club on campus, whether intentionally or not!

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