Welcome to the 6th 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 Maria, a 3rd year medical student at Lancaster University.
Two years ago, when I officially became a part of Lancaster University I did not have a clue of how amazing the following years were going to be. Let me just say, the experience I received exceeded my expectations on many different levels, so keep reading, if you want to find what I mean by that.
First of all, a little background story. Lancaster Medical School (LMS) was founded in 2006, which makes it one of the youngest medical schools in the United Kingdom. It started as a part of Liverpool Medical School, but in 2012 it became a completely independent institution and quickly made its way up in the rankings. The student cohorts used to be quite small (mine started as 70 students), however, due to a high demand it was almost doubled last year. It is truly impressive how fast it developed and how far it has come in such a short period of time. However, it makes a lot of sense, if you consider the fact that Lancaster Medical School is a Number 1 in UK for both research quality and intensity in medicine. And now, with our freshly-built Health Innovation Campus, it’s only going to get better.
- An Overview of Teaching Methods
- Typical Timetable of a 1st year Medical Student at Lancaster
- The Non-Medical Stuff
- 3 Top Tips For Applying to Lancaster
- Your turn to ask questions!
An Overview of How We Are Taught
Our teaching is based around PBL which stands for Problem Based Learning. Each PBL module lasts 2 weeks and within these two weeks you will have various classes and lectures surrounding one particular topic (e.g. cardiovascular system). PBL is held in groups of 7-8 people, and takes place 3 times per module. For the rest of the time in your first year you will have anatomy teaching, what we call CALC (Clinical Anatomy Learning Centre), Clinical Skills, Communication Skills and lectures.
CALC teaching takes place once a week during a 2-hour session. For that you will be split in the groups of around 10-12 people. The class is lead by one of our tutors, using 3D anatomy models. Sometimes we will also use special phantoms that allow you to perform an ultrasound scan, and see all the internal structures as you would in a real patient.
As for clinical teaching, in the 1st year you will have a 2-hour session of clinical skills per week, where you will learn how to perform various medical examinations on your peers and/or phantoms. Each week the theme aligns together across all your teaching, for example, while learning about the heart in your PBL, CALC and lectures, you will also learn how to perform a cardiovascular examination during Clinical Skills. In this way you approach each topic from various different angles what helps you build a comprehensive basis of knowledge. These sessions will prepare you for your 2nd year, where you will spend two whole days each week on a hospital placement, and will be able to put all the medical examinations you’ve learned into a practice on real patients.
Your teaching will be supported by non-compulsory, however, very valuable lectures that will help you reach your PBL learning objectives. Additionally you will have Communication Skills once or twice a month, where you will learn the basis of good communication practice with the patients, in the groups of 7-8 people. You will also have an opportunity to practice your history-taking skills and learn how to mange different emotions during conversations with a simulated patient.
In the first year you will also have a few days of clinical exposure, such as GP placement days, that in the following years will gradually increase, making up the majority of your course.
You will be assessed twice a year, at the end of each semester, however, only the exams at the end of the year (so-called summatives) will contribute to your final score. The exams you will have to sit in the middle of the year (so-called formatives) are only there to give you an idea of where you are at with your knowledge and skills, and what you should focus on before your finals. You will be tested on medical sciences as well as non-medical sciences, which comprise of three subjects: 1) Population Health, 2) Health, Culture and Society, and 3) Professional Practice, Values and Ethics. Besides your written papers you will also be tested on your clinical skills during a practical exam called OSCE (Objective Structured Clinical Examination).
Additionally, once a year, over the course of four weeks you will have a Study Skills Module that will prepare you for future coursework assignments. During this time you will be exploring topics that aren’t normally in your core curriculum and develop skills such as critical appraisal of information sources, systematic literature searching and report-writing.
A Typical Timetable of a 1st Year Medic
This is an example of my personal timetable from my first year, however, keep in mind that time of the PBL, CALC etc. will vary from person to person. The amount of lectures will also be slightly different every week. Additionally, you will have to adjust the amount of your self-study time to your personal needs and preference. And don’t forget to schedule some extra time for any extra-curricular activities! It’s important to keep the balance.
The Non-Medical Stuff
Lancaster University is a campus-based uni, what means all the facilities, from all the degrees, are gathered in one area. It’s like this inside “student village” with a friendly and youthful feel to it. The campus is comprised of 9 colleges, each of which has its own spirit, different traditions, their own bars, cafes, sport teams and student houses. You have to choose your collage soon after you get accepted, while applying for accomodation. It will be the place where you’ll be living in your first year, and where you’re most likely make the majority of your friends. What I especially love about the colleges is that they help you easily adapt to the new environment that is your university. Your collage will become your home away from home and will be there for you if you need any support at any point of your course, whether it’s as trivial as a broken laundry machine or more serious such as dealing with anxiety or homesickness.
You are also welcome to join any sport teams, either within your college, or on the university level. Additionally, Lancaster University Student Union has a huge variety of different societies to choose from, which hold their own classes, meetings and socials.
The campus has a decent amount of food options, ranging from university-owned cafes, bars and canteens to more popular places such as Go Burrito, Costa, Greggs etc. If you want a bigger variety of choices, you can always leave the campus and check out the city. There you’ll find a good selection of beautiful cafes selling delicious coffee and freshly-baked pastries. There are also many restaurants offering cuisine from all around the world, with many vegan and vegetarian options.
Pros of Studying at Lancaster
• The small group teaching – every class (apart from lectures) is held in small groups which will help you get more engaged in the teaching and freely ask any questions.
• Medical parents – At the beginning of your course you get assigned to a medical student from upper year which will be your “medical mom/dad”. They will help you with any questions or difficulties you may have during your studies.
• Collegial system – Makes it super easy to make new friends and socialise. You feel warm and welcomed from the first day you arrive.
• Location – Lancaster is located very close to the Lake District known for its stunning views (Seriously, just Google it!). If you have some time on the weekend, it will be a perfect place to rewind and enjoy a good hike. Additionally, if you miss the bustling city vibes you can get a 1-hour train ride to Manchester (or Liverpool) on a weekend, whichis very inexpensive, especially with a railway card.
Cons of Studying at Lancaster
• PBL – PBL is not for everyone. It is very dependent on your self-study time, thus, it requires a lot of discipline. If you like plenty of structure and more of a “being lead by the hand” approach, you’re most likely won’t enjoy the course.
• Location – Can be a con, depending on how you look at it. Lancaster City itself is rather small, with paving stones and all that old, traditional feel to it. If you absolutely can’t live without those big city vibes, it is probably not a place for you. Nonetheless, it also what makes it a great place to focus on your studies, as there is less distraction.
3 Top Tips For Applying to Lancaster
1. Really polish your personal statement – Personal statement plays a big role in Lancaster Medical School’s selection process. Make sure it stands out and shows your passion and enthusiasm (don’t just say it – prove it). Show them why you will make an excellent medical student. If you can, get clinical exposure before applying, as at LMS we get that quite early on. Therefore, that will automatically elevate your application and show that you know what you’re getting yourself into.
2. Choose your universities carefully. Don’t just look at the rankings, but really look into the course structure as they can significantly vary among different medical schools. Make sure you are able to give an honest answer when you’re asked why did you choose a particular university.
3. Prepare yourself well for the interviews. Lancaster uses the MMI format, so make sure you familiarise yourself with it. Act super confident, even if you’re not feeling that way. They don’t expect you to be an expert, but they want to see if you have a potential to become one. Practice possible interview questions with your friends, family, or even in front of the mirror. And most importantly, try to enjoy it. I know it may be very stressful, but approach it as you would any good challenge – with a determination, confidence and courage. Sounds cliche, I know, but a good mindset makes all the difference.
Thank you Maria! Find out more for providing this very interesting insight in to Lancaster! You can follow her medical journey on her Instagram:
Your Turn To Ask Any Questions!
Thank you for submitting your questions, they’ve now been answered by a current student – click below to read the answers!
Make sure you subscribe to this website to have the overview for the rest of the medical schools delivered straight to your inbox!