Medicine @ Leeds | Q&A

These questions have been answered by Sairah (3rd year) and “iamamedic” (4th year) medical students at the University of Leeds.

Sairah’s questions + answers:

How many placements do you have in first year and how long are they?

Starting from the second term of first year, we spend half a day on placement each week. We have two placement blocks – one of these is spent in a GP practice and the other is based in a hospital. 

One thing I liked was that our hospital timetable allowed us to spend time in a different wards/departments each week so you get to see a lot! 

Another thing to bear in mind is that if you have an area of interest, say you think you’re fond of cardiology or you’re keen to see surgery, you can set this up quite easily by speaking to the doctors you meet on placement or on campus in your tutorials. I felt the time we had in first year was great for meeting our learning outcomes but it is possible to arrange for more! 

The main focus in first year is getting used to being in a clinical environment and having early opportunities to hone your communication skills with patients. Your time is spent mostly shadowing clinicians on these placement days.

 After a morning on placement, we have scheduled tutorials back at uni. These sessions involve case-based discussions to reinforce some of the medical theory and complement the practical side of being on placement for a morning. I found it really nice to regroup with everyone on campus again and exchange stories about what you’ve seen that day – though it does make for some long days! Slightly delirious but still fun!

Do you have any tips for the gateway year available? How competitive is it and what’s the selection process?

Ah I’m really not sure about the gateway year and I don’t know anyone personally who has experience with it. I’m more than happy to try and help with general advice for applying to Leeds so if that might be useful, please feel free to reach out and I’m here! I’m sorry I can’t be of more help but I wish you all the best 🍀

What would you say makes Leeds unique as a medical school?

This is a great question! We have a wonderful patient-carer community in Leeds and they work really hard with the medical school to provide us with communication workshops. This allows us to receive real-time feedback on our strengths/areas of improvements, which is a helpful way to complement our early clinical exposure.

 I personally love the societies we have here – I somehow ended up playing on the medics rugby one year I think more because of how kind and friendly they were than any really athletic ability/lack thereof on my part! 

There’s a lot about studying medicine at Leeds that I’m grateful for, like some of the kindest/most dedicated teachers I’ve met in the form of doctors and nurses. Whilst I’m not sure if what I’ve mentioned is completely unique, I hope it’s in some way reassuring that there are always gems out there wherever we might end up.

How is first year structured in terms of topics you cover? Are there certain modules you do?

Excellent question! Here’s a little bit about each of the modules in first year:

Introduction to Medical Sciences makes up the bulk of first term. It’s all about getting everyone to baseline. There are around 14 weeks of core topics like immunology, haematology, etc delivered to you through lectures and tutorials.

Campus to Clinic includes medical ethics, clinical competencies and communication skills. 

Body Systems is our first bit of insight into physiology and pathology. For example, a lecture will teach you about electrical conduction in the heart and a tutorial will teach you about conditions where this goes haywire! Anatomy, taught through tutorials and prosections, comes under this. 

Individuals & Populations is about the human condition and I guess seeks to teach us more about behavioural theory/psychology of the patients we will one day care for. Some of the topics include child attachment, public health campaigns and the experience of living with chronic illness. 

IDEALS (or as we called it ‘circle time’) is a weekly seminar where we discuss all manner of things sometimes with chairs arranged in a circle. Patient safety, ethics, time management, contemplating life in general you name it 🙂 Most IDEALS groups also have a cake rota (not that I’m bribing you to come to Leeds with baked treats of course – although they do help friday mornings!)

RESS is the research module. In my year, our focus was on biomarkers and we wrote a report about this. 

Sounds like a lot to pack into a year! Just to clarify, the theory from the modules kind of interplays/overlaps so I promise it’s not as daunting in real life. It’s all about building up understanding.

Are there any opportunities to get involved in research as part of the programme?

To put it briefly: yes, lots! 

In the first three years of medicine, we have a module called Research, Evaluation and Special Studies (RESS). Through this strand of the curriculum, you can gain a lot of insight into medical research. We all start out by writing a research report in first year (with plenty of support in the form of lectures and tutors!) to get us up to speed. In second year, there is a student selected module (meaning we get to choose a research project according to our interests). Mine was on haematology and was a really useful way to consolidate some of the knowledge from first year!

Later on, in fourth year, you have the opportunity to design your own research project and choose a doctor/professor to supervise you which is kinda cool 🙂 

Beyond the curriculum, there are lots of wonderful clinicians/academics you brush shoulders with through your placements. More often than not, these doctors are keen to support students with projects – they might have research aspirations of their own and ask you to collaborate with them or you could suggest a project to them and they can guide you through the process. There are also lots of medical societies you can join, for example a group called LEADERS who even offer a summer school and can help you find research opportunities.

How much PBL do you have at Leeds? Is it a weekly case or less frequent sessions?

There are a few PBL-style sessions in first year. One type is known as the clinical symposium and this is where clinicians/tutors talk to us about a few patient cases. Each symposium focuses on a system, like cardiovascular/respiratory etc and we basically talk through the cases as a group. I think these usually happened once a week in second term. 

There are other tutorials that involve working through booklets/questions that uni provides. We might be asked to discuss the questions together in small groups and then feedback our answers to the rest of the group. The frequency of these sessions depends on the topic but I think it was usually once a fortnight. 

In any case, the tutors here are always approachable and super happy to help whenever we’re unsure/get stuck.

I know Anatomy is taught using prosections but I was just wondering whether the anatomy requires pre-learning as with some medical schools or do you get taught in a lecture-based manner?

Great question! In first year, we have workbooks for anatomy which guide us through the curriculum and direct our reading/preparation for tutorials. A fair amount of pre-learning is definitely recommended. There are videos released before your time in the prosection room and some online resources developed by the anatomy tutors that are useful here. Key topics are highlighted through a few lectures but I think the emphasis in first year was more on the prosections. This varies slightly in second year, where we look at the musculoskeletal system and neuroanatomy in a module called ‘Control and Movement’. This is much more lecture-based.

I know Leeds uses a lot of group work, how big are the groups you work in?

It varies quite a bit! You’re right that Leeds uni is quite fond of group work. Med schools are looking to send out people who are proficient team players, so they like to work in a lot group projects into the curriculum to help you.

My two cents are that it’s a fab way to meet people and learn from others. 

Placement groups – 4 first year students with the same timetable. We usually commute together, approach patients in pairs and write up a short report at the end of placement.

Projects like group presentations – usually around 4 to 5 people.

Tutorials – there are anywhere from around 10 to 20 people in each room.

How would you advise approaching the BMAT?

  • Take care to practise under timed conditions. When you start out, it might take you a bit longer to get used to question format etc and that’s okay! As you continue to practise, be strict with time limits to keep it as authentic as possible to the time you’ll have in the exam. 
  • As important as it is to revisit the theory you covered in GCSE, make sure you plan enough time for practising questions.
  • Practice with a mixture of drawing up essay plans and writing full essays. If possible, maybe arrange a meeting to discuss these drafts with a supportive teacher for insight/areas to work on. Take some time to read exemplar essays (which can be found in BMAT prep books) and develop your style – flair is encouraged!
  • Critical thinking – consider ask english or history departments in your school for help/resources?
  • Make time for rest. Juggling A-levels and entrance exam prep can be tricky. Remind yourself that it’s important to be in a good state of mind before the exam so please look after yourself.  

iamamedic’s questions + answers:

What are the clinical years like?

Very different to non-clinical years as your on placements for majority of the year. It’s usually early morning starts working well into late afternoons. Surgical placements can go into the evening, and night shifts are expected in year 4 (speciality year). Furthermore, you can finally apply your medical knowledge in a clinical setting; taking histories, examining patients, taking vital signs, calculating NEWS scores, doing ECGs, interpreting X-rays, coming up with differentials and formulating a management plan. In the clinical years, you finally feel like a student doctor as your based in hospitals/GP surgeries.

How does the workload change from pre-clinical to clinical years?

Workload differs because of the way in which material is taught from pre-clinical to clinical years. During year 1 and 2, you are provided with lecture material covering all the modules. However, from year 3 onwards (clinical years), the curriculum is outlined in terms of core conditions and drugs which you then have to research and complete. Therefore, you have more of a responsibility to complete the work as your not spoon fed through lectures. Thus, it can feel like you have a lot of free time on your hands but in essence, you don’t.

For your clinical years, how far do you have to travel and are there specific hospitals you might be allocated to?

It depends how far you live from the hospital – you could be placed at LGI (Leeds General Infirmary) and live in Leeds meaning your there in ten minutes. Equally, it can take an hour if you live at home and are travelling into Leeds. All placements are within Yorkshire so anything from Leeds to Bradford to Huddersfield to Calderdale to Pinderfields to Airedale. Specific hospitals (those mentioned above) can be requested for special circumstances – if you are a carer for a family member and want to be placed at a hospital closer to home.

Are there any books you’d recommend reading prior to applying?

To be honest, I did not read any books other than those for BMAT/UCAT before applying. Hence, I cannot really recommend any. Having said that, there are loads of books out there written by doctors sharing their experiences!

I’ve heard about the enterprise element of the course, could you tell me more about what that’s about?

During year 1 and 2, there is an IDEALS (Innovation, Development, Enterprise, Leadership, Safety) module. A lot of group work, presentations and reflective assignments are undertaken regarding current NHS issues, professionalism, GMC guidelines and the enterprise side of things.

How many students intercalate and are there any good intercalation opportunities within Leeds?

Usually around half of the students will intercalate but depends on the year – sometimes more sometimes less. Yes! There are plenty of good courses on offer in Leeds; BSc and MSc courses. A Leeds favourite is International Health (BSc) and Medical Education (BSc).

What are exams like at Leeds? What happens if you fail an exam?

Exams are integrated and sat at the end of each academic year; May-June. There are no January exams. Each module has a certain weighting, graded from A-E. You are given an overall grade for the paper and OSCE. If you fail in year 1 and 2, there is an opportunity to do a resit paper. From year 3 onwards, if you do not score high enough in the paper or OSCE, you do sequentials. This is another sitting in which if you pass you progress, otherwise, you resit the year.

What are the OSCEs like and which years do you have them?

OSCEs are in year 3, 4 and 5. There is also a FOSCE (formative OSCE) at the end of year 2 which is just for the experience. OSCEs are totally different to paper exams because your being examined physically – the manner in which you talk to a patient, the way you conduct yourself, the words you use to extract information/explain medical conditions/break bad news, whether you perform clinical skills safely (venepuncture, cannulation, catheterisation, ABG, ECG etc), prescribing medications/fluids competently, having a systematic approach to taking patient histories and carrying out body system examinations. OSCEs are about being confident, speaking to your patients with respect whilst building rapport, ensuring to ask and perform what is expected in the little time you have!

Thank you to Sairah and “iamamedic” for for answering these questions! You can find out more about them both on Instagram!



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Posted by:Life of a Medic

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