Tuesday, 28 June 2011

OSCE and Freedom!

So today was the dreaded OSCE. I've always suffered horrendously with exam nerves, and although in recent years I've managed to get a hold of myself during written exams, I really struggle to hold things together during OSCEs. For some reason, every examination, history or procedure that I've done numerous times in the preceeding months leaves my memory and I feel like I enter every station completely clueless. This year in particular, things were not helped by the revision day put on for us at uni, where I was not-so-politely told, after one particularly disasterous station, that I was under no circumstances to go anywhere near a sick patient as I was basically completely incompetent... Cue an evening of tears, sickness and panicky phone calls to medical friends. Utter nightmare. However, once that was done I decided to focus on "practise, practise, practise" - the only way to really get through a clinical exam. I spent Friday and Saturday reading MacLeod's Clinical Examination and my Ask Doctor Clarke books cover to cover, then Sunday and Monday both involved practising with friends.

This morning I have to admit I felt rather unwell (ie like I could well vomit on the first patient I saw...), but having seen most of my year group feeling the same way, I realised things could've been much worse. The exam itself was rather hard to judge. I was lucky in that my first 3 stations were all written, as I find the written bits much easier and less panic-inducing, so that meant I started on a reasonably positive note. Aside from forgetting to take the respiratory rate of the patient in the "examine this gentleman's respiratory system" station (schoolboy error!), I can't think of any epic disasters. There were more communication/history stations than I'd imagined, which I think was a good thing, and no limb neurology or musculoskeletal exams - a definite bonus as they're my two weakest areas. All in all, I suppose it went "ok", not amazing, not terrible. I didn't cry when I came out of the exam (unlike quite a few people, and indeed me myself last year) and don't think I had any complete blanks. So I'm just going to try and forget about it until results come out a week on Friday.

This evening I'm going for dinner with some of the people from my ward group, which should be a nice way to mark the end of the year, and then we'll meet up with the rest of our class for some drinking, dancing and general debauchery! We have some lecture thing at uni tomorrow about registering with the GMC, and I suspect I may not be alone in attending with a bit of a headache (or possibly still drunk!); having to be in at 9.30am the day after exams isn't ideal but I'm sure I'll survive.

On Friday I'm going away for a week to volunteer for Over The Wall (http://www.otw.org.uk/), an amazing charity who run holidays for children affected by serious illnesses. It'll be the fourth time I've volunteered with them and I cannot wait! It's usually a completely crazy week involving lots of facepaint, nail varnish, singing, dancing, food challenges and general silliness :) So I may not update until I'm back, by which time I should have my results - eek.

Good luck to anyone still doing exams, and those who are finished enjoy your new-found freedom! xxx

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Exams Pt II

Written exams are now done! It feels incredibly odd to know that if I've passed, I won't sit another written exam until I do my membership papers.

There was another MEQ this morning, which was probably on a par with Monday's paper in terms of difficulty/weirdness. There were good psych and paeds questions, and a decent obstetric one too, which I'm happy about. There was a pretty tricky one on burns management, which everyone seemed to have found difficult, but the rest was fine. Once again I was first to leave, which made me a bit paranoid that I'd misinterpreted something that was actually more difficult/time consuming than I'd thought, but I think overall it went reasonably well (although the invigilator did say they were going to make me a more difficult paper so I took longer next time..).

This afternoon was the SBA (single best answer) paper, which is well known for being incredibly difficult because for a lot of the questions, there will be two answers which are correct, but you have to chose the one that's "most" correct. The majority were relatively obvious though, or at least possible to work out using first principles. Funnily enough after a Twitter debate last night (I'm @the_learnaholic) on the relevance of hypoxic drive, a question about an acute exacerbation of COPD came up. I left this exam first too, which makes me think that I read abnormally quickly! I was home and in the bath before the exam was even over...

Well, only the OSCE on Tuesday left to study for. There'a revision day at uni tomorrow which I'm hoping will be useful, as I'm never too sure how to prepare for OSCEs. I also went on the Ask Doctor Clarke revision courses earlier this year, which should prove useful.

Hope everyone else with exams is getting through without too much stress! xxx

Monday, 20 June 2011

Exams Pt I

I had my first two exams today; I have two more on Wednesday and then an OSCE next Tuesday.

This set of exams are a little odd, as they're my "finals" in the sense that I'll only have an OSCE to do next year, no written papers. It feels strange calling them finals when I still have another year at uni, but we keep being told that next year is all about the practical stuff so our knowledge now should be all we need to get through - scary thought!

Anyway, after a near nervous breakdown last night (asking friends to test you less than 12 hours before an exam is never a good idea, especially if they test you on things you've honestly never heard of in your life!) and about 8 hours sleep all weekend, I managed to get through.

This morning was the MEQ (modified essay questions), where there were 9 scenarios with associated short answer questions. A slightly odd mix of topics came up. There was no paediatrics or psychiatry, which is a little annoying as they're probably my best subjects. Cancer came up 3 times (suppose it is common and important) and there was a scenario which was largely about audiology... Bizarre! I was the first person to leave, which often happens in exams as I'm a really fast reader. I'm not sure how anyone spent 2 and a half hours on it, but I definitely answered everything! Anyway, having chatted to other people it seems like we all wrote vaguely similar things, so either I've done ok or the majority of the year have failed. Fingers crossed for the former! We have a second MEQ on Wednesday so if paeds and psych don't appear at some point in that I will be annoyed.

This afternoon was the EMQ (extended matching questions), which is a slightly bizarre format which is similar to multiple choice, but there are 5 questions relating to each set of possible answers. The range of subjects was a bit better (very glad I spent ages on developmental milestones) and there were only a couple where I was really unsure. Again I finished stupidly early, was second to leave (after the guy who left second in the morning - I guess we're both just quick!). I think I'm one of those people who feels the need to change things if I sit there too long, so after checking my answers 4 or 5 times, I have to go before I start changing all my correct answers to wrong ones!

I have written down a list of topics which came up, should anyone be interested.

I'm going to head off and try for a decent sleep tonight, then will spend tomorrow going over the things which weren't in today's exam as they're likely to appear on Wednesday.

Good luck to anyone else with exams at the moment xxx

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

No Going Back

After a lot of stress and panic over my application forms yesterday, I asked my consultant friend to have a look over them for me. I always feel slightly guilty asking for help with this sort of thing, but I suspect most people will have someone look over their forms, so surely it's not giving me an unfair advantage... After constructively ripping my answers to shreds (in a nice way, but still...), he did help me make them sound considerably more confident and professional. So, slept on it last night, had one final read this morning and sent them in! Eek! I'm convinced I've left some glaring errors on there somewhere so I'm not looking at them again unless I get an interview and need to remind myself what I wrote!

Sunday, 12 June 2011

Cold Feet

Well, I've filled in all 3 of my regional AFP application forms. I've read, them, re-read them, had my Mum (!!) check them... I really don't know that there's anything else I can do - and yet I don't dare to send them in - my first deadline is 20th so I have a week or so to calm my nerves, but I don't know why I can't just hit send... I'm currently debating asking some doctory friends to have a look over them, but I think I'm just trying to delay the inevitable! I need to get a grip!!!

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

It's Started!

So today I registered with the foundation programme website and submitted my general application form - that was just a basic one where I listed my personal details, qualifications, referees and where I wanted to apply. I found it a bit odd only being allowed to apply for 3 schools, but then some of the foundation schools cover fairly big areas (Scotland is one school, despite there being 4 and a half medical schools and 4 postgraduate deaneries there). The first of my school-specific applications could be sent in on the 6th, which is rather a scary thought and it only gives me a couple of days to perfect my responses to deliberately difficult and vague questions with stupidly short word limits. That said, the forms for 2 of the 3 schools I'm applying for have been available for a while, so I have been working on them. The third is and online only form which isn't yet available, although they have published the questions which will be asked so I can prep them too. It's all starting to feel a bit too real now that I've officially enrolled in this round of applications though - eek!