The first two terms are quite heavy going with lectures on “the Molecular and Cellular Basis of Medicine” (MCBoM). This is combined with lectures and tutorials for “the Human Basis of Medicine” (HBoM), which includes sociology, epidemiology and ethics. Lectures are broken up with regular sessions in the dissection room learning anatomy and with an afternoon each week at a GP’s surgery. The third term changes to “systems based” teaching where you learn about a system of the body (e.g. the cardiovascular system) which is then followed by a week in hospitals to put into context what you’ve learnt in lectures and to begin to prepare you for the clinical years.
OUR TOP TEN FIRST YEAR TIPS
1) Textbooks – In short, don’t buy them before coming to uni! By the time you’re half way through the first term, you’ll have a much better feel for what you need, and which books suit you best. If you’re interested though, or if you absolutely feel the need to break into that student loan, here are some common themes:
Books most first years end up buying:
Anatomy textbook – Either Gray’s Anatomy for Students or Clinically Oriented Anatomy (Moore and Dalley). The two are very different, so use library copies of both for a while before deciding on your favourite.
Anatomy atlas – Very useful for revision – there’s really no other way to do it. The most used is by Rohen, Yokochi and Lutjen-Drecoll, and is very good.
Books you should never buy:
SCAMBLER – See next point (that’s right, it’s that important: not buying this book is one of the top 8 pieces of advice we can give you!)
Any huge biochemistry text – Lecturers will frequently push books such as Devlin or Stryer. These go into far more detail than you will ever need, and you’ll never open them again after your first six months. If you want something for reference, Instant Notes in Biochemistry is very comprehensive, and will actually fit in your bag!
Oxford Medical Dictionary – it’s not a bad book, it’s very good. That’s why the MDU give it to you FREE when you join (see tip 3 for more details).
2) Beware Scambler! – Under no circumstances buy the Scambler book that they will keep recommending to you- you will never use it. Any other book that is recommended you will need so infrequently you can make do with the library copies, or “acquire” copies online.
3) Join the MDU and MPS (medical defence associations, in case a patient tries to sue you) when they visit the med school. They are FREE to join (every students favourite word) and they give you good freebies, typically a pocket ‘Introduction to Clinical Examination’ and the ‘Oxford Medical Dictionary’. For this reason, DON’T buy a medical dictionary before you go to med school as having two just takes up space in your room!
4) Fancy Dress – Take all the fancy dress bits and bobs you have to uni with you… virtually every medic event will have a fancy dress theme, and having to buy things gets expensive! So dig out your old toy doctors/nurses kit, bring along that questionable animal onesie and anything else you think may be useful (by the end of first year virtually everyone has a dressing up box again!!)
5) Placement clothes – Same as for fancy dress, make sure you have some! Half the year will complete a GP placement in their first term, so be prepared with some smart clothes and shoes- the time may come where you finally learn to iron.
6) Make use of your medic parents, who you will be matched with in your first couple of weeks. They should feed you at least once, they may have textbooks to lend you, they may buy you drinks (in the case of some parents they will get you horrendously drunk) and will generally be willing to offer bits of useful advice.
7) Buy a stethoscope at the first opportunity once at uni; you don’t really need one in 1st year (although it is helpful on GP placements) but money’ll get tighter as the course goes on so you may as well buy it early! Furthermore, there are usually plenty of deals floating round early in the year – talk to Galenicals for more info. Once bought, under no circumstances take it out when in fancy dress- you will lose it!
8) Work, play, and sleep – It’s often said that at university, you can only choose two of the three. Some freshers in first term just about manage one… your time management skills will improve over the years, and having a good routine (with the occasional heavy night, for better or worse!) will help immensely.
9) From a big fish in a small pond, to a tiny fish in the sea. This describes how a lot of medics feel academically when they start university. You may be used to getting top exam marks in your year at school, but when your (large) year group is made up of people who were all in that same position, it’s easy to feel insecure about your academic potential. For some people, feeling “average” provides a much-needed dose of humility, but it can lead to freshers feeling like they need to work 24/7 in order to keep getting top marks. This is usually a recipe for disaster, and results in the following epiphany: exam results are not the be-all and end-all of medical school. Hard work will always be a feature of any successful student’s time at university, but sustainably balancing this with the rest of your life is one of the most valuable lessons to learn as a medic.
10) Enjoy it, and take all the opportunities available to you! As a first year it might seem a bit daunting to stick your neck out and join a load of societies that already feel tight knit. But everyone was a fresher once! Drag a newly-made friend along to something you have a vague interest in, and who knows, you could be the one in charge in a few years’ time!