A day in the life of a medical student at Lancaster University

Medical school really does tread the fine line between success and absolute burnout

Sadly, the rumours are true: medical school really does tread the fine line between success and absolute burnout. It is rewarding, but also stressful – although I imagine every degree must have its pros and cons.

I think the main unique thing about medical school is hospital placement. I’m in Year Three, so currently how many days in a week I’m on placement depends on what specialty rotation I’m on. It can range to one day a week in a GP practice, to four days a week on placement on an obs and gynae with paediatrics rotation.

What Lancaster Medical School is like

Lancaster is a comparatively much smaller medical school than most, with Year Four only having around 60 students. However, they are currently expanding with each year group, so my year now has 120 students – it definitely changes the dynamic, but it’s also a good thing, as it’s nice to have the opportunity to meet more people.

The Health Innovation One building just opened up next to campus, which gives medical students more space for teaching and studying, as before that we mainly just had access to a couple of lecture theatres in Furness. It does seem like it is a learning curve for the hospitals we have placement at to accommodate such an increase in numbers, which makes sense.

Hospital placement days

On a day I have placement, I’m usually up at 5.30 am for a coach that leaves at quarter to six, but that might also be because I take ages to get ready. Luckily, I live very close to the bus station so I can usually risk leaving my flat with minutes to spare. When on placement we have targets to complete for the year, such as doing certain examinations on patients and taking bloods.

I love talking to patients, and I always try to find time in the day to do at least one thing that doesn’t revolve around signing off a particular target, to make sure I feel I’m getting as much out of the experience as possible.

The coach leaves at 5 pm, and it’s mostly an extremely quiet journey back to Lancaster because we’re all napping, especially if we have placement on consecutive days. Where we have placement depends on what rotation we’re on, but it can vary to Blackpool hospital all the way to having to find a way to get to a GP practice in the middle of nowhere.

Non-placement days

When not on placement, we usually have teaching for one or two days of the week, and we do Problem Based Learning, where we basically figure out what we have to learn on a particular topic that week and are then given the Intended Learning Objectives afterwards. We also have two pieces of coursework to do in Year Three and are to do with the ethical and sociological parts of the course.

If we don’t have any teaching, I’m generally in the library, because I’ve found being away from the comfort of my room makes me way more likely to focus. I’m personally not a fan of having a super strict daily schedule, but I like to be up around 9 am and heading for the library after a good meal.

How I manage stress

I find with such a packed degree, having ways to unwind and relax are so important. I usually do sparring at the end of the week with the boxing society, and I like to head on a run or at least a walk if I didn’t manage to leave my room for the day because my motivation mysteriously vanished. It can be hard to find and time to cook properly every day, so when I do I like to do it in bulk so it lasts me at least a few days. I like to make sure I have time to catch up with friends in any way (even just a phone call) every day, since it feels even more important to stay connected and in touch with people, especially with how isolated things have unavoidably felt the past few years.

I like to make time wherever I can to read a book in a new coffee shop, write somewhere pretty or listen to a podcast even if it’s on a bus on the way to a lecture that I’m only just on time for. I think making time for your other interests and yourself really is valuable, which I know everyone always says, but annoyingly I have been finding it does actually help me feel better every day.

It is a good feeling to know that one day (hopefully) I’ll be a doctor and I’ll be able to help people when they’re at a difficult point in their lives. It’s one of the things that keeps me pushing forward. I’ve found over the years that medicine as a career path, like most things in life, is definitely a marathon, and not a sprint.

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