Welcome to the 11th 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 Alessia Tarantino, a 5th year medical student at Norwich Medical School, the University of East Anglia.
Hello, I’ve been at UEA for five years now, and I have definitely learned a lot of medicine and gained a lot of life experience in that time. I’m going to tell you all about the course at Norwich Medical School and hopefully convince you to apply, because It really is a great place to study!
- An Overview of Teaching Methods
- Typical Timetable of a 1st year Medical Student at Norwich
- The Non-Medical Stuff
- 3 Top Tips For Applying to Norwich
An Overview of How We Are Taught
The MBBS degree at Norwich Medical School is an integrated course, utilising Problem Based Learning (PBL), lectures and seminars, anatomy dissection, consultation skills and placements from Year One. The course is not split into the traditional pre-clinical and clinical years like in other medical schools – rather, each year of the course is divided into modules, with each module consisting of 8 weeks of campus based learning (including one day per week on placement at a local General Practice), and 4 weeks of hospital placement at a hospital in Norfolk. Every campus based week is based around a presentation or condition, and during the week you learn about the relevant basic science and clinical science.
Lectures and Seminars
These are typically 50 minute teaching sessions, provided by clinicians from local General Practices or Hospitals, and academics from the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences. They take place on campus, usually in lecture theatres or seminar rooms in the Norwich Medical School building. Lectures are given to the whole cohort, and the Powerpoint slides are available to download from Blackboard before and after the session. Seminars are given to a smaller group of students and tend to be more interactive than a larger lecture. Lectures and seminars are mapped to the learning outcomes relevant to the week, this means that your learning is directed toward the most important and relevant information.
Problem Based Learning
In Year 1, PBL takes place on a Friday morning on campus. An average PBL group is made up of 8-10 students, usually an equal or near equal mix of male and female students, and one PBL facilitator. The PBL facilitator may be a clinician, professor, or medical student who is intercalating at UEA. PBL allows you to discuss clinical cases with your colleagues, share knowledge and learn from each other. The PBL process is split into 3 phases:
- The Initial discussion: This is where you read the clinical case(s) for the week, and discuss your existing knowledge and experience. The advantage of PBL is that you learn from each other, and everyone brings their unique experience to the discussion.
- Researching the subject: Every person in the group is allocated a learning objective(s) to research during the week. You will create a two page Word document summarising the information you have collected, with references, and this will be uploaded to Blackboard for your group to access. You will be supported by lectures, seminars, and placements. The library contains all of the books, eBooks and journals you would need to complete this.
- Reporting back to the group: In the following week’s PBL session, you will discuss your research in an interactive and engaging way. People like to get really creative – for example, creating quizzes, games or role plays to consolidate the learning of the week.
You will spend a day in Primary Care for every campus based week of learning throughout the MBBS. This provides the perfect opportunity to meet and examine real patients, and really consolidate the learning of the week. You will attend the same General Practice each week with your PBL group, so you really develop a great working relationship with the GP and your group.
Four weeks of Secondary Care placement is organised for every module. You will go to a hospital in Norfolk, or sometimes you may go to a hospital a bit further afield as a part of a residential placement. You will come across a variety of different learning opportunities during your hospital placement, including: ward time, clinics, structured patient teaching sessions, clinical skills sessions and clinical seminars. For all placements free transport is provided, and free accommodation if you are further away.
Other teaching sessions that you should expect include: Anatomy, and Consultation Skills training. Anatomy is taught weekly in the anatomy facility on campus. You work with your PBL group and carry out dissection, using the detailed instructions in the Workbook. Facilitators are present for each session, and will often provide small teaching to your group, based on your dissection findings. In Year One you will be studying the anatomy of the Musculoskeletal System. Consultation Skills is also taught weekly on campus, in the Medical School. Again, you do this with your PBL group, a facilitator and actors. You will have the opportunity to volunteer and practice with the actor to really develop your consultation skills and individual style. Year One is all about developing the basic skills required to gather information during a consultation, you will then build upon this foundation with further training with each year of the course.
A note on how the course may change from September 2021
Norwich Medical School is currently undergoing an expansion project. The addition of 41 new student places increases admissions to Year 1 from 167 to 208 places. To meet the extra demand, some changes are being made to what I have discussed above – but don’t be alarmed, a lot of the teaching elements I discussed are staying, rather the delivery of them will be slightly different. These are the following changes that I think are the most important for you to know about:
- The two first year modules, the Fundamentals of Science for Medicine and The Musculoskeletal System, will be run in parallel throughout the academic year, in response to student feedback asking for more clinical medicine earlier in the course
- Secondary care placements will be spread across four 2 week blocks, as opposed to 2 x 4 week blocks, to reduce the pressure on hospitals
- The number of OSCEs throughout the course will be reduced, in response to student feedback the the examination burden was too much
A Typical Timetable of a 1st Year Medic
In Year One you will study two modules: Fundamental Science, and the Musculoskeletal System. Each week will have a central theme, and will be covered by in the following pattern:
Monday – The week starts lectures & seminars covering the learning objectives for the week, some days can be pretty full with 4-6 lectures.
Tuesday – The morning is for lectures. In the afternoon you will have consultation skills. This is a full day on campus, with consultation skills sessions being 3 hours long, you often finish around 5:00 pm.
Wednesday – The year group is split into two for Anatomy sessions, alternating between an 8:30 AM start or a 11:00 AM start each week. Wednesday afternoons are kept free so that you can get involved in one of the UEA Sports teams, do some private study or even just chill.
Thursday – Starts with catching the transport provided by the medical school and travelling to your GP placement. Travel time will vary as you can be at a practice in Norwich, or further afield such as Ipswich. This is usually a full 9:00-5:00 working day, but may vary with each practice.
Friday – The week finishes with PBL starting at 9:00 AM, usually taking place in the Norwich Medical School building. It is a tradition that the chair of the session brings snacks for the group, so don’t worry if you miss breakfast! You then have a 1 hour seminar after PBL with a Doctor, called ‘Clinical Relevance’. It is a student led session where you get to ask about anything you found confusing, and it is a chance to sort out any issues before starting a new week of learning.
The layout of the week stays the same throughout Year One to Four, but the day which you will have each session will change.
The Non-Medical Stuff
UEA is a campus university, situated close to the Norfolk & Norwich Hospital. The campus is famous for its Brutalist architecture, but also the abundance of green space and the Broad. Norwich Medical School is located on campus, but also has buildings on the hospital site nearby, so you will get used to spending time in both places. The medical school has a common room (known as ‘The Room of Requirement’), with tea and microwave facilities, it also has IT & printing facilities, seminar rooms and PBL rooms. With your Campus Card you have 24 hr access to the building.
There are plenty of accommodation options at UEA, ranging from flats with shared bathroom facilities, or ensuite options which tend to be more expensive. You will become familiar with ‘The Street’ on campus, where you will find the SU shop, Ziggy’s (cafe & food outlet), Barclays Bank, Waterstones, Campus Kitchen (cafeteria) and the Student’s Union. The Student’s Union is home to Unio (the coffee shop run by the SU), the Bar, and the LCR (gig and nightclub venue). There are lots of food options available on campus, and often local businesses will be selling food in the SU – for example a bakery comes every Tuesday & Thursday, and a caribbean food stall is there most days!
There are plenty of societies and sports clubs to join at UEA – during Freshers Week there is a Societies Fair and Sports Fair, so you can choose which clubs you would like to join then.
Norwich City is linked to UEA campus by two bus routes, both of which are about 25 minutes long. Norwich is known for thriving independent pubs, restaurants, cafes and the outdoor market so you won’t be stuck for things to do on the weekend. The city feels very safe, and there is always a large student presence on nights out.
Pros of Studying at Norwich
• You get to know your year group well – You will have a new PBL group each year. This means that you get to work with many different groups of people throughout the whole course, and by the end of it you know the majority of people in your year. Your PBL group often becomes a key support network academically and socially, with ‘PBL Socials’ being some of my favourite memories from my time at UEA.
• Early patient contact – With placement starting within the first few weeks of first year, you get used to being in a clinical and professional setting very quickly. This is great for building your confidence, and developing key communication skills early.
• Free transport and accommodation provided for placement – You will have a placement at the James Paget University Hospital in Great Yarmouth, and the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Kings Lynn at some point in your five years at UEA. You may also have a GP placement as far as Ipswich or Felixstowe. Fortunately, the medical school arranges all transport for you at no additional cost, so you don’t need to worry if you cannot drive or afford expensive travel costs!
• Societies and clubs – As well as the general UEA societies & sports clubs, we have a lot of medic academic societies and sports clubs. MedSoc is the main medic society, and does a great job at running a Medic Freshers Week, as well as supporting students with the Hardship Fund. Academic societies, for example: General Practice Society, Norwich Surgical Society, Norwich MedEd, provide revision sessions throughout the year to help you prepare for OSCEs and exams. Also, medic sports clubs such as the Norwich Medics’ Hockey Club, Norwich Medics’ Rugby Club and Norwich Medics’ Netball Club are great to join because all training sessions are suited to the timetable and require less commitment than UEA sports clubs.
Cons of Studying at Norwich
• Assessments – Norwich Medical School has a lot of summative assessments and examinations throughout the year. We have the following each year (excluding 5th year): an SSS project (Student Selected Study), Analytical Review/Audit, Portfolio Report, three end of year written papers, three end of module OSCEs, and two end of year OSCEs. When deadlines are close together it can feel quite overwhelming, but you get used to the routine. The benefit of the assessment schedule being the same each year means that you get more effective at time management and know where to focus your energy.
• Location – Norwich can be a bit difficult to travel to, depending on where you are coming from. It has great train links with London (2 hours to London Liverpool St), and the rest of the East of England, but if you are travelling from further afield you will have a longer journey ahead of you due to lack of a direct motorway. Having said that, I come from the South West of England – it only takes around 4 hours to drive to Norwich, and with a Student Railcard the train fares are very manageable.
3 Top Tips For Applying to Norwich
1. Work or Voluntary Experience – You are asked to complete a work experience form to bring to your interview, so you will definitely be asked about your work experience. It’s a good idea to keep a diary of what you do each day at your work experience, so that you have a bank of experiences to reflect upon for your interview.
2. GP & Psychiatry – Norwich Medical School is keen to train up future GPs and Psychiatrists. Having some experience in either of these fields, or at least a good idea of what is involved, would look great on your application.
3. Research the Course – It’s important that you know the general structure of the course and the way it is taught (hopefully this article will cover that!), and make sure that you are aware of the many opportunities offered at Norwich Medical School (intercalation is a big one) so that you can show how enthusiastic you are about studying here.
Thank you Alessia for providing such a detailed and interesting insight into Norwich.
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