Welcome to the 5th week of the Virtual Medicine Open Day: giving you an insight into each of the UK medical schools and the opportunity to ask current medical students about the realities of studying there!
This post is written by “amedicsthoughts”, a 1st year medical student at Aberdeen University.
In my short time at Aberdeen University I have learned so much and I definitely feel like I made the right decision for me in terms of medical school. I hope this brief overview gives you an insight into the course and it will help you make a more informed decision on whether Aberdeen is right for you.
- An Overview of Teaching Methods
- Typical Timetable of a 1st year Medical Student at Aberdeen
- The Non-Medical Stuff
- 3 Top Tips For Applying to Aberdeen
- Your turn to ask questions!
An Overview of How We Are Taught
Aberdeen uses a integrated systems-based approach. This means that the year is split into a number of blocks, each covering a specific system of the body e.g. in first year you learn about respiratory and cardiovascular. At the beginning of each block we are introduced to the physiology of the system (i.e. how that system SHOULD work) and then we learn about the pathophysiology and therapy (i.e. conditions that occur in that system and how to treat). This is all done in lecture style. Interspersed however are a number of smaller group teachings such as GP lead cases, problem solving sessions and clinical.
Aberdeen is unique in that from first year you are exposed to the clinical environment through their patient partner scheme. This involves volunteers from the community coming into our clinical centre and either letting students examine them or take a history. This is an amazing opportunity since as you go through the systems theoretically you can also put your knowledge into practice. For example, during the respiratory block I learned how to listen to lung sounds, percuss the front and back of chest and the correct inhaler technique, all with the help of a patient partner. We are also split into groups of 10-12 and are assigned a patient partner who has memorised a specific history (relevant to our lectures) and we take turns to take a history and then critique each other. It sounds quite scary especially the first few times, but already I feel so much more confident in front of “real” patients!
In terms of anatomy, at the beginning of each block we would have a few lectures on anatomy and embryology of that system. Then, we are given a workbook with sections to complete before each anatomy class. There are around 4 anatomy classes in which you are free to walk around the classroom and use the resources as you wish. Aberdeen uses prosecutions meaning everything is laid out and prepared for you to learn and feel. The classes aren’t really meant for “learning” as such, they are just to consolidate your answers from home and if there are questions there are anatomists and older students around to answer.
For placements we have 2 GP visits in first year, both to a practice pre-assigned. You also are given a group of 3 and must contact one of your practice’s patients (details are given to you) and arrange a home visit. At the end of the year in first year you also have 4 hospital/care home visits where you have the chance to take a history and examine a patient, then debrief to a group of classmates. This may not seem like much but as you progress through med school you have more and more placements, I think they just try to ease you in in 1st year!
When you reach “clinical years” i.e. years 4-5/6, the number of lectures dramatically decrease and you spend most of your time on placement. For most people this is in Aberdeen, however for those interested in rural medicine you can spend the whole of 4th year in Inverness (Highlands), learning how their hospital operates, rotating through several specialties.
A Typical Timetable of a 1st Year Medic
This is a pretty standard week for a first year especially at the beginning of each block you have quite a lot of contact hours. However, it does ease up somewhat so not each week is as busy!
The Non-Medical Stuff
I love Aberdeen as a city! Many people don’t see the appeal but when I came for my interview, I knew straight away that it was the perfect city for me. Its big enough that there are things to do all the time but not so big that it feels like a tourist city. There is the main shopping street plus three large shopping centres where me and my friends would go to shop and eat out (I recommend BarBurrito for cheap Mexican food + student discount). But there are also loads of little side streets with cafes, multicultural supermarkets and many, MANY hairdressers/beauty salons. In the city there are 6 large supermarkets (depending on where you live) and plenty of small ones dotted about. For sport you can go to the Aberdeen Uni Sports village which has just about every sport facility you can imagine.
At the medical school campus there is a café and “rec” room both where you can sit and eat. Also, you can walk 1 min down to the hospital where you can buy lunch from M&S or WHSmiths! There is also a library on campus in addition to the main Aberdeen uni library – Sir Duncan Rice found at the main campus.
Society wise you are spoiled for choice, from sport to travel to medicine there is something for everyone. If you don’t sign up to a society or don’t join, they often still post on Facebook about their events so if you want to come along it’s not a problem. MedSoc is the main medical society that put on the big events through the year, you can sign up at the start of the year however if you don’t you still have access to everything if you change your mind.
In terms of accommodation the university halls are located quite far out of the city, there is a free bus to the main and medical campus but its quite long and infrequent. I would recommend looking into private halls in Aberdeen such as student roost, unite students and liberty living. They are normally the same price as the uni halls however they are much more central and often a bit nicer! You also are put in with students from RGU and the college so you get to know more people out with your uni.
Pros of Studying at Aberdeen
• Early patient contact: this is so helpful especially for building your confidence in asking questions you would never normally ask strangers! Since you start building on these skills from almost week 1, already by the end of year 1 you are confident enough to go into the hospital and take a history from patients!
• Lots of clinical practice: as above this is super helpful in building confidence to get used to performing examinations on patients. This normally takes quite a bit of getting used to but the school lets you use the clinical rooms with your friends if your finding things difficult or you want more practice. However, I think in total we must have 12-15 clinical sessions per year all 2-3 hours long so plenty of time to learn
• Lots of opportunities to socialise “academically”: as well as lots of nights out and balls throughout the year, there are sooo many different societies and events put on by different students and doctors. If you are lucky enough to have a fresher’s week this year (pending covid-19), I would HIGHLY recommend going and taking time to look at all the societies you are even mildly interested in! This way you can still have access to the events going on but don’t have to be a member. Then through the year see which societies suit you and your academic interests!
Cons of Studying at Aberdeen
• Lots of contact hours: if you find that you rather do more work from home that at school you may find this course isn’t the best for you. As you can see above, most days you are in the whole day sometimes with 3-4hrs back to back of lectures! Personally, I don’t see this as a con as I work better at school and often if we have a couple hours between lectures, I would revise but I can see why it would be a lot for some people.
• Campus is out of the city: I know many med schools are like this and Aberdeen is no exception. Personally, I lived almost in the centre of town in first year and it would take me 45mins to get to school by bus compared to 20mins walk to the main campus. This year I’m hoping to find somewhere closer as running to the bus stop every morning isn’t really the best! However, if you have a car or don’t mind a longer commute in first year then it shouldn’t be an issue.
3 Top Tips For Applying to Aberdeen
1. Focus on work experience – Aberdeen places more weight on the interview and grades rather than the UCAT. This was great for me as my UCAT was average but I had really good specific work experience which I could talk about and reflect on what I had seen/ heard. This doesn’t mean you need to have a large quantity of experience just make sure you have a couple of things you can reference in your personal statement and interview.
2. Practice your interview – related to the tip above, the interview is the most important thing to focus on after your grades. So, I would recommend finding a bank of questions that could be asked (lots online) and making a rough outline for what you would say for each. Don’t try to memorise an answer as this will come off as super rehearsed, but as long as you have an idea of what you’re going to talk about it will help a lot on the day.
3. Research the course THOROUGHLY – before applying and definitely before interviews make sure you know the structure of the course and the way its taught. Also, research the different opportunities you are given within your time at Aberdeen and if any particularly excite you, mention them!
Thank you amedicsthoughts for such an interesting insight in to Aberdeen! Find out more about her on Instagram and check out her own blog:
Your Turn To Ask Any Questions!
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