Hello! I’m Helena, a Bangkok Patana Alumni. I graduated in 2015 and am now a junior doctor based in London. Having just finished medical school, I thought it might be helpful to talk you through a typical day at medical school. This is for those interested in studying Medicine in the UK (or anywhere), or just curious about what medical students get up to. Here’s a typical day in the life of a first- or second- year medical student (the pre-clinical years) at the University of Edinburgh.
My Usual Day at Edinburgh University
7:30am: usually wake up (in the dark), go on a run if I feel up for it.
8:40am: leave home to walk to medical school across a park called The Meadows (either beautiful or blowing a gale and horizontal rain)
9:00am: lecture in the old Anatomy Lecture Theatre (designed so that students could watch live operations!). Lecture on the pathogenesis of atherosclerosis (where plaque-like material forms in the blood vessels and blocks off blood supply to the heart muscles, leg muscles, etc.).
10:00-11.30am: Break – coffee and chat with some friends or head to the library to fit in some studying.
11:30am: Problem-Based Learning (PBL) – small group of eight discussing a case (more on this to come). We read a case vignette on a patient having recent progressive memory loss, in the General Practice clinic with their daughter. We discuss ‘everything and anything’ about this. The concept is that you learn from the ‘rabbit holes’ you go down as a group. We form five questions at the end of this session, then go to conduct some individual research on these questions. Later in the week, we have a second PBL session to discuss our findings. There are always snacks!
1:00pm: Lunch time.
2:00-5:00pm: Anatomy practical in the anatomy rooms. We had a pre-anatomy practical lecture yesterday to learn specifically about the cardiovascular system anatomy (the heart muscle, major arteries and veins in the body). During this practical, we circulate around seven stations with a workbook. Each station has a prepared specimen (or Xray/ histology slide). We observe the specimens and answer the questions in the anatomy workbook. We then check our answers before we leave.
5:00pm: Home for a quick dinner.
7:00pm: Football training for the game against Glasgow Uni tomorrow.
10:00pm: Home and relax.
At the University of Edinburgh, we follow a spiral curriculum – this essentially means we cover basic science including things like the structure and function of the human body. In later years, known as the clinical years, you learn about these topics again, but applied to the different specialities in a hospital environment.
Some days can be quite full on, but that’s usually due to balancing the triad of academics, social life and extra- curriculars. The example provided demonstrates a busy day – I can remember many early starts and late finishes. Interestingly, I found that the more extra-curriculars I participated in, the more time I had. Something about having these extra-curriculars automatically gives your day structure and blocks your time for you.
You’ll never get through every resource! There are about 10,000 textbooks on each niche of Medicine. Some weeks, I would open a new textbook each day of the week and only read until page 10, then lose focus and start another textbook the next day. But I don’t recommend this! Stick to one trusted resource and speak to students from the year above you to know the most tactical way to go about study- ing something.
Keep up-to-date with your notes as much as possible, although medical students tend to cram and leave things until the last minute. A week before our exams, the library would be filled with medical students! If you’re ever struggling, reach out and get help early, even if you may not see how anyone can help. I have had difficult times myself, but speaking out and realising I was not alone was the key in moving forward, irrespective of the solutions offered. Feel free to reach out to me directly, I’m always available to chat about the academic workload!