Frances Dixon on term two at medical school

So new year, new term of med school. Before we broke up at the end of last term a couple of our lecturers warned us that, having completed one term, we were now doctors (in the eyes of friends and family at least) and would be bombarded by requests for advice all through the holidays. I wasn’t asked once! I was disappointed and seriously considered wearing my stethoscope just to make myself look more doctorly.

Anyway, the new term started off with some (mock) exams, so the last week of the holidays was given over to frantic revision. So much for my New Year’s resolution of not leaving everything until the last minute. Once the exams were over it was straight back into lectures. We are finished with the general science module now and are starting to do more specialised modules like neuroscience and endocrinology (which has lots of scary long words like hypothalamoadenohypophysial). I like the design of these modules as it means we have more tutorials than last term, and I think tutorials are good as they really make you think about the subject matter.

In lectures, no matter how interesting the topic is, sometimes just being talked at means you don’t take in as much. I suppose that’s one of the big differences between school and university, that you have less input in a lecture theatre than a classroom. I’m getting more used to it now and find that taking ridiculous amounts of notes helps.

We have just finished our “clinical communication” module (which I mentioned in my last post). That was a really good (and extremely useful) module. The title is fairly self-explanatory, it is just about honing our communication skills for a more clinical application. I found that it was quite slow at the beginning, as there was lots of teaching about things like non-verbal communication, eye contact etc, which I thought seemed sort of like common sense.

But then later on when we were taught how to apply these skills, (for example, during a patient interview), it was much more interesting. Just putting the theory into practice was really useful and really made me think about how one day, I will be interviewing patients for real, and I will have to be able to communicate effectively or it could affect a patient’s treatment. I think the skill of letting the patient talk, and not interrupting is so important, as often they will mention something I wouldn’t have thought to ask about. I’m glad we are being taught how to do this so early in the course, as hopefully by the time I am doing it by myself it will be completely second nature.

The final part of the module was another simulated patient interview that was videotaped for future reference. For some reason, the fact that it was being videotaped made me a lot more nervous. We were given the DVD at the end so that when we repeat it again in a year we can see how our skills have progressed. I can’t bring myself to watch it yet, but I’m sure I will at some point!

I am looking forward to the rest of this term as we are going to do a module on the cardiovascular system, which I find really interesting, and we are also starting to do some anatomy. I am really excited (in a very medical studenty way!) about this.

Frances Dixon is a medical student at Imperial College School of Medicine, London.