Hi, I’m Jean-Luc, your Preclinical Vice President for the year 2016-2017! I make sure that Galenicals is doing the best job possible for everyone in first and second year, as well as anyone intercalating. I attend regular meetings with the faculty to voice your views, and make sure change happens in a way that most benefits students.
If you’re having any academic or pastoral issues, don’t hesitate to drop me an email at [email protected].
In our current curriculum, preclinical medicine refers to the first two years of medical school at Bristol. These are mainly spent in the central university buildings, learning the theory behind clinical medicine. Intercalation is included in the preclinical period as most students intercalate between second and third year, and most intercalated degrees do not involve clinical work.
Preclinical years are the time where we feel most like “normal students”- we have regular(ish) timetables, go to lectures and labs like other science students, and get evenings, weekends, and Wednesday afternoons to ourselves. Even though the timetable’s pretty packed, preclinical years are the easiest time to get involved in things like sports and societies. (It’s definitely doable in clinical years too, but your timetable will be lot more variable).
I remember being told constantly that preclinical medicine was “nothing compared to the clinical years”, and that things would only get harder. As someone who spent most of first and second year feeling completely overwhelmed, this didn’t do much to help! Everyone else seemed to be having a great time, while I felt like I was struggling to keep my head above water.
As it turns out, not only did many people in my year feel similarly to me, but my friends also had no idea how hard I was finding things. Because we spent so much of our time crammed into one lecture theatre together, nobody wanted to look like they couldn’t handle it.
Moral of the story: if you feel like everyone else is miles ahead of you, you’re probably not the only one!
By accident (or not), medical schools have a habit of selecting highly driven, competitive students. This can make for an atmosphere where we feel pressured to never admit that we’re having difficulties. It’s just one part of the “hidden curriculum” that’s long been acknowledged throughout the medical profession- something which both Galenicals and the faculty are doing their best to unpick.
Whilst none of us on the Galenicals committee are trained support staff, we have all been through preclinical years recently, and we know how gruelling it can be. So we’ve put together a number of schemes, not only to help prevent people from suffering in silence, but to enable everyone to make the most of their first few years! As well as being hard work, they can be a lot of fun too.
All of our schemes are run by students, for students:
“Drop in Clinic”
The “Drop in Clinic” is a scheme run for students who are worried about exams, retakes, continuing with medicine etc and want to talk to a fellow student about their problems. Students with concerns can e-mail me and I will let them know the date of the next clinic and arrange a time to meet.
Fresher Mums and Dads
Mums and Dads is a longstanding scheme within the medical school designed to ease the transition from home to university life by creating your very own medic family. Just as you think you’ve left your parents behind, we provide you with two or three more!
Your “parents” (2nd year medics) will be allocated to you within the first few weeks of term, and this is followed by the eagerly anticipated event that is “Mums and Dads night”. Typically, this involves a family meal cooked by your parents, followed by a night out with all the other medic families.
Having just completed first year, your parents should be a good source of advice for general fresher and first year medical related inquiries, or at least know someone with the answers.
All children (1st year medics) will be automatically be opted into the scheme. However, if you wish to opt out this can be arranged by emailing me. More details will be sent out by email closer to the time.
“Ask an Intercalator”
Students at Bristol often decide to intercalate between 2nd and 3rd year, when they can choose to spend an extra year gaining a degree before entering clinical medicine. The decisions surrounding whether to intercalate and in what subjects can be difficult.
In order to make those decisions easier, Galenicals will be updating the information on the website regarding intercalation and assigning contacts who have previously intercalated in each of the subjects to answer your queries.
Intercalator Mums and Dads
Once you have secured a place to intercalate, you will be given the option of being assigned a parent who previously studied for the same intercalated degree as you. That way you can discuss module options, lab vs. library projects, and tips for summer exams.
The exams during preclinical years cover a massive amount of content compared to what you might be used to at school, and it’s not uncommon for medics to fail one or more of them in a single exam season. Having exam retakes in the summer can be a hugely daunting experience. Fortunately, Galenicals can help! We have willing and enthusiastic teachers in the form of third and fourth year students willing to guide you through the process of revising for retakes.
If things are more serious…
Although all of these schemes are a good way of supporting students through minor setbacks, some medical students at Bristol may face more serious personal issues where the support required spans beyond your medic parents and friends. Some of the most common issues facing medical students revolve around mental health (including depression, anxiety, and eating disorders), substance misuse, financial worries, and bereavements.
Medics are notorious for trying to sweep personal issues under the rug and soldier on with the course, but it’s all too easy to neglect yourself and not realise how bad things have become. Whilst clinical supervisors may pick up on this from third year onwards, it can go completely unnoticed in the preclinical years, where it’s easy to feel faceless in a group of 220.
If this sounds like you, please don’t be a stranger. There will always be someone on the other end of [email protected] willing to listen, and point you in the right direction.
University can be a tough transition, especially if you’re moving away from home for the first time. But hopefully you’ll get to make new friends, definitely stay awake in all your lectures, and most importantly, enjoy yourself! A consultant once told me that the worst thing about medical school is how fast the years go- we hope to help you make the most of them.
Galenicals Preclinical Vice-President 2016-17
University of Bristol Medical Student Society
4th Year Medical Student MBChB