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 “mymediclife”, a 4th year medical student at Hull York Medical School.
In the 4 years I have studied at the Hull York Medical School (HYMS), it’s become my home away from home and has lived up to my expectations as a modern yet close-knit medical school; I do not regret my decision one bit! HYMS is a joint partnership between the Universities of Hull and York and whilst for some this might seem a little unique, it will make perfect sense below in this post…
- An Overview of Teaching Methods
- Typical Timetable of a 1st year Medical Student at HYMS
- The Non-Medical Stuff
- 3 Top Tips For Applying to HYMS
An Overview of How We Are Taught
In the pre-clinical years (Phase I), the HYMS class is divided up and allocated to one of two campuses (University of Hull or York) which act as our “base site” for Years 1-2. We become either a “Hullie” or a “Yorkie”. The timetables run exactly in parallel whichever site you are at, including our lectures, placements, anatomy sessions, PBL and clinical skills sessions all year. HYMS runs on an integrated/PBL (problem-based learning) approach. Throughout the five years, our curriculum is structured in blocks around body systems and clinical specialities.
Problem-Based Learning (PBL)
For each week of Years 1-2, we have two PBL sessions a week in groups of 10, facilitated by a working doctor with a special interest in teaching. In Year 1 my group had a neurosurgeon, and in Year 2 an anaesthetist. In the first opening session, a student “chair” oversees the case and a student “scribe” brainstorms our points on the whiteboard. We normally cover two cases back-to-back in this opening session. We then create learning outcomes and study them independently to feedback in a “closing session” later that week. The chair also has additional work of preparing activities to test our knowledge in the closing session, however we rotate the role of scribe and chair each week so everyone has a go. Our PBL sessions felt very personal; the chair and scribe that week brings snacks in, we’d have a personal WhatsApp group with our Dr to discuss cases, and at the end of the year it was common for Drs to take their group out for an annual picnic, dinner or barbecue at their own house.
Although PBL is a large part of our curriculum, we have on average 6 lectures each week which relate to our cases. For example, if the case that week involves a patient with menstrual problems, the lectures may cover anatomy of the pelvis, the menstrual cycle, fertility, contraception and so on (see below). As I mentioned earlier, our lectures happen at both sites simultaneously. If the lecturer is based at York one day, it is video linked live to Hull’s lecture theatre and vice versa. All our lectures are uploaded online too, so we can look back on them as many times as we want.
At each site, the cohort is split into three smaller groups, and once a week we have an hour timetabled in the anatomy pro-sections room. There is always pre-work to do in the anatomy resource guide the week before alongside the anatomy lectures to familiarise yourself with the content. The anatomy resource sessions aren’t really for teaching, but more to consolidate your own understanding and asking questions to the anatomy demonstrator. Although one hour of anatomy might not seem much, you have full access to plastic anatomical models at any time in the medical school, and you can always book a supervised slot to handle the pro-sections by emailing the demonstrator a few days in advance. Many students increased their time in the pro-section room to 3-4 hours a week in the run up to anatomy exams, but this entirely optional.
Clinical Skills (CS)
Every week we also have two CS sessions led by doctors. In groups of 10, we practice consultation skills with simulated patients (SPs) and perform physical exams on each other. Both of these are nerve-wracking to start, however CS sessions are a safe place to learn from mistakes without fear of judgement. What’s also unique is your individual SP consultations take place in a room next-door away from the rest of your group. Your group watch remotely by camera, take notes on your interviewing and give feedback once you re-enter the main room. This provides a very realistic experience of history taking using the Calgary-Cambridge framework, without an audience sitting directly behind you. The simulated patients are also hired actors and so you can practice lots of patient personalities and they offer you very valuable feedback with respect to body language, tone of voice etc. Finally, your consultations are recorded and are replayed to you at the end of each year so you appreciate how much you have progressed!
I saw my first ever patient in my third week of first year. In Year 1, we have a half day of placement either at GP or in hospital alternating every Tuesday. Each group of 4 students are allocated to a GP surgery in the local area and hospital consultant on a specific ward. I had a Radiologist in Year 1 and an Anaesthetist in Year 2 as my hospital tutors. On placement we practice history taking and perform examinations on patients. In Year 2, this increases to a full day with longer clinics supplemented with extra teaching. This arrangement of clinical placement is a big highlight of studying at HYMS and it means you get to experience primary and secondary care equally in Phase I.
Scholarship and Specialist Interest Programme (SSIP)
We have SSIP a few hours every week on a Wednesday. This is equivalent to the “Student Selected Components (SSCs)” in other medical schools. The SSIP involves being attached to a research group in Year 1 and then a different one in Year 2. Each research group will have a small class of medical students and a tutor who is an active researcher and expert in their field. In one of the first two years, you will be placed in a laboratory-based biomedical centre to complete a lab project and create a PowerPoint oral presentation, and in the other year you will perform an oral poster presentation and an essay on two different topics of choice. My chosen topics were in Reproductive Health and Palliative Care. Students in the past have used their research skills as preparation for intercalated degrees or have continued working with their tutors in their own time to create publications in later years.
A Typical Timetable of a 1st Year Medic
The Non-Medical Stuff
Life in Hull
I was allocated Hull for Years 1-2 as my base site. Hull is a very, very underrated port city and is highly affordable to live in for a student. Personal recommendations are the beautiful Marina, Old Town, The Deep and the Humber Bridge as sites you want to explore. A single bus ride away from town is the University. It is a closed campus which I find to be very safe when walking back home from very late nights at the library. The Brynmor Jones Library is personally one of the best libraries I’ve ever studied in – says a lot as a graduate student! There is also the Allam Medical Building where HYMS is based; it’s state-of-the-art with its own mock hospital ward and theatre. Lastly, a brand-new gym and two accommodation blocks (the Courtyard and Westfield Court) have recently opened on campus, too. Supermarkets close to university include Lidl, Sainsburys, Heron Foods, ASDA. On and around Beverley Road and Newland Avenue are plenty of independent cafes and niche restaurants to suit everyone’s diets (vegan, vegetarian, halal). My personal favourites are Zoo Café, Dope Burger, Mezze, The Greek, Sumos and Marrakech Avenue. As for affordability, my rent for Year 2 was £92pw, and this was a very modern 5-bed house 5mins away from campus with 2 shared bathrooms.
Life in York
I lived in York for placement in Year 3. York is a gorgeous city with a deep history in its cobbled streets. It’s home to York Minster, the medieval city walls and the Shambles (thought to inspire Harry Potter’s Diagon Alley!) to name a few. There are endless shops in York; from designer label to high street and independent. There are plenty of restaurants in York but it’s particularly renowned for its tea-rooms and independent cafes. York is also a very cycle friendly city, and I took up cycling here! Again, a single bus ride from town is the University. The university itself is unique in the sense it has a collegiate system, so on enrolling at York you’ll become a member of one of its colleges which has its own unique personality, social calendar and support network. On campus you’ll find bars, shops, theatres, concert halls and first-class sports facilities which include a swimming pool and health centre. One small negative compared to living in Hull is the price, with rent on campus ranging at £99-£174 self-catered and £139-£196 catered.
Pros of Studying at HYMS
• Mental Health Support – In Years 1-2, you will see a PBL tutor face-to-face twice-weekly, a CS tutor twice-weekly, a GP tutor every fortnight and a Hospital tutor every fortnight. If you ever feel overwhelmed with work or just want to speak to someone, there is always an opportunity. From my own experience, Student Support are also very friendly.
• Two Universities – It’s quite cool being a member of two universities. This may not mean much in Phase I as you are either in Hull or York, but is useful in later years. HYMS’s arrangement means it geographically covers a large patient demographic. We have placements in either Hull, York but also in Scarborough, Scunthorpe, Grimsby and now Middlesbrough. This gives you excellent exposure to different cities and towns whereas in other medical schools you may be confined to just one or two. I will have called home to four different cities / towns, and worked in 5+ hospitals by the time I graduate.
• Communication – HYMS prides itself in teaching us excellent communication skills. It takes a good medical student to diagnose a condition, but it takes an even better one to explain a disease in simple terms to a patient, or to break bad news to them. HYMS prepares you very well for this.
Cons of Studying at HYMS
• Random Campus Allocation – Once you receive your offer for HYMS, you will be allocated to a campus for Years 1-2 by random ballot. You can only request a specific campus under certain conditions. I initially wanted York, however I was allocated Hull which I am so happy with now! It’s highly underrated city with lots going on, and is very, very affordable to live in. Both definitely have their positives though and if I had to choose again, it’d be Hull.
• Variability – I am not sure if this is a con, but no two HYMS medics’ experiences are the same after Phase I. In Phase II and III Hull & York cohorts combine but students are divided further across 6 sites, each allocated their specialties at different sites. This can mean a student’s experience of Psychiatry in York for example is different to one students’ Psychiatry placement in Scarborough.
3 Top Tips For Applying to HYMS
1. Be Yourself – This might seem like a generic answer, but the truth is HYMS is a small and intimate community who really want to know whether you’ll fit in. Try and communicate that across the whole application process and especially during interviews. They don’t want to hear the typical “check-box answers” applicants think medical schools want to hear. By answering more genuinely, your personality shines through.
2. Reflection – When writing your personal statement, it’s important to reflect on your learning experiences. As a HYMS medic we have to do a lot of reflections throughout our degree, this includes a short reflection after every placement and clinical skills session in Phase I. When reading through, ask yourself if you are demonstrating a good quality over quantity in your writing.
3. Random Campus Allocation – Don’t let the Random Campus Allocation put you off applying to HYMS. It seems scary to think about initially, but there’ll be several times at other medical schools when you’ll be randomly allocated placements sites. When you graduate, you’ll have a degree awarded by both the Universities of Hull AND York. In the grand scheme of things, it doesn’t matter where you studied for the first two years and both are equally as good as each other.
Thank you mymediclife for such a very detailed insight in to Hull York! Find out more about her on Instagram and check out her own blog:
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