A day in the life of a medical student

medical students walking down a corridoor

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 Abigail, Scott and Josh; three students studying medicine at the University of East Anglia (UEA) to find out what being a medical student is all about.


medical student selfie

"As a first year student, my mornings usually start at 9am. Mondays and Tuesdays are lecture-based at the Bob Champion Research and Education centre. We usually have about 4-6 lectures so stay there all day, but on Wednesdays we have anatomy in the morning and then the afternoon off.

"Thursday is a primary care placement at a GP practice - my favourite day. We start our placement very early in the course, as it helps develop communication skills and helps us relate our lectures to real-life scenarios.

A minibus is provided to take us from campus to the GP surgery, and we then spend the morning talking to patients whilst learning about their history. It's amazing meeting so many people and hearing about their experiences; everyone is so friendly and always willing to talk to us. Afterwards, we catch the minibus home and are back on campus by 5:30pm.

"The week ends with Problem Based Learning. In a group of 10, we examine a scenario and then research questions over the following week. We write up our question and share it online, so we can present other members' questions in the next session. It's a great way to learn from and educate each other, whilst also getting to know your course mates really well.

"It's important to stay on top of the workload as there is quite a lot to do, but it's also important to have fun! I swim twice a week and go to Medic hockey on Sundays - this is a great opportunity to meet older students on the same course. There are so many clubs and societies at UEA, I'd definitely recommend joining some."


medical student

"I'm in my second year, so a typical Tuesday or Thursday entails starting the day with a 9am seminar in a small group. An hour later, we'll have a lecture as a whole year, then one more at 11am - often about research - before breaking for lunch at either Blend or Campus Kitchen.

"After lunch, it’s back to seminars again until 4pm. Seminars can be about a number of things; psychology, physiology, anatomy or specific diseases. After this, I'll usually head home and do some work on my Problem Based Learning and possibly write up some notes if I'm feeling productive.

"Monday is PBL, which we don't start until 12pm. It's a really great way to learn as we recap the week by presenting a learning objective to the group. We then focus on the week ahead and look at patient scenarios in our handbook, so we can brainstorm what we think we need to learn in preparation. Someone often brings cake or snacks too, which helps us stay focused... Afterwards, we have a ‘clinical relevance’ seminar to summarise the week and test our new-found knowledge.

"Wednesday mornings are spent in Anatomy sessions, where we do some dissection - this term we’ve been looking at the lungs & heart. Fridays are spent on placement at a GP practice.

"After a few weeks in lectures, we go on hospital placements where we see more patients who are acutely ill, and get to practice everything we’ve learnt. This is probably my favourite time, because you really get to feel like a baby doctor!

"Most of my days as a student are 9-5 or less. It’s really fun, and it gives me plenty of time to revise/make notes as well as indulge in extra-curricular things, like playing for the Medics football team."


medical student

"No two days are the same as a medical student at UEA, which is one of the things that attracted me to the course. Typically, you'll have 2 days of lectures, a day's placement at a GP practice, and two half days of PBL and anatomy dissection. 

My GP placement is on a Tuesday, and this would be my average day: 

8:45am: Catch the bus from campus

9:30: I arrive at the GP surgery. I usually grab a coffee and a biscuit, then chat with the GP tutor about my week before getting straight down to work around quarter to ten. 

10:00: Usually, we go through the learning objectives from the week, ensuring we understood the basic sciences and clinical aspects. The GP makes sure everything we learn is clinically relevant to practice. 

11:00: We see a patient with a disease relevant to the week - anything from diabetes to pseudopseudohypoparathyroidism. (!)

12:00: A well-deserved coffee break (you can never have too many.)

12:10: This is our opportunity to practice clinical skills, first demonstrated by the GP. We are then able to practice on patients. Currently, I’m doing a module on renal medicine, so this week I was getting to grips with the abdominal examination. 

13:00: Lunch (or accompanying the on-call GP on home visits.) 

14:00: We take notes on patients' medical histories and conduct examinations. Sometimes you join a doctor in an acute GP clinic, where you're running the consultation as the GP takes a back seat! This lets you put into practice your knowledge, and makes you feel very doctor-y.

17:00: Bus home – this is a time to snooze.

18:00: Off to the library. Medicine is something you must enjoy because it involves long days and lots of time studying. Usually I’ll write up notes on the patients I have seen in the day and go back over my lectures.

21:00: Pub – It’s been a long day so… why not. 

Are you planning to study for a degree in Medicine? Do you already have experience of what it's like studying on a Medicine course? Share your thoughts in the comments at the end of this article!

Our partnership with the University of East Anglia
The Student Room is proud to work with UEA, a UK top-15 university (The Times/Sunday Times 2018 and Complete University Guide 2018), as the official partner of our student life section. Not only is UEA highly rated in the league tables, it has also received a TEF gold award for excellence in teaching, learning and outcomes. UEA’s experts are here to help with any questions you have about going to university (not just going to UEA!). Give them a try at Ask UEA.
Read more from the student life section
Find out more about UEA on The Student Room
Ask UEA a question about university
Study with UEA

People are talking about this article Have your say