I wrote a post just like this when I finished my first year of of medical school, sharing some “quotes” of common things I had heard said throughout the year – read that post here! Third year of medical school is so different to first and second and being in a completely different environment means you hear different things. Of course, me being me this calls for a reflection, so here goes…for a bit of fun, some phrases I haven’t stopped hearing over this past year…

“Common things are common”

This seems to be every doctor’s favourite phrase when teaching medical students. I have to say, it was more popular in Surgery for some reason. We’d be having a teaching session and asked to come up with a potential diagnosis and would be hit with the “common things are common” phrase when the patient would have a very common and obvious condition that wasn’t being guessed.

In medicine there is a bit of a joke about students being able to remember the weird and wonderful conditions or causes of an illness, but then finding the most typical ones harder to remember. The most meme-worthy example of that being the causes of pancreatitis. Ask a medical student what the causes are, the first thing they’ll remember is scorpion stings (which is incredibly rare), but will then forget very common causes such as alcohol, gallstones…(which are far far more common).

“I want a really good history”

The words that make you tremble a little when a consultant sends you off to take a history from a patient and come back and present during your bedside teaching. When you’re told it has to be a “really good history” you know you will be quizzed when you return so it’s one of those histories you have to ask every little detail. You’ll probably have to SOCRATES* them twice to be sure, make sure to ask all the questions you usually wouldn’t.

When you get asked to take a really good history, the chances are the consultant knows the patient’s background too, so those fine details really have to be in place and you’ve got to make sure you write down everything the patient tells you to make sure you don’t forget any key details for your presentation.

*SOCRATES = an acronym medical students are taught to use when taking a history, typically when relating to pain.

“I didn’t ask”

This what you hear coming out of your own mouth (or your fellow students’) when you return to present that very good history you were asked to take. Of course as students you will miss out questions when taking a history, it’s all part of the learning process, but sometimes you’ll get that consultant who’ll say “did you ask if they’ve been abroad recently”, “did you ask if they own any pets?”, “did you ask about their occupation?”. In those moments you have to hang your head and admit that you just didn’t ask. You know all too well than you fabricate an answer because professionalism and also the consultant is likely asking because they know the answers to those questions so don’t make up the gaps in your history!

“So I’ve diagnosed myself with…”

You learn a lot about symptoms and presentations of conditions in your clinical years. Weirdly enough, you can relate to a lot of them and by the end of the year you’ll have diagnosed yourself (or those around you) with a multitude of conditions. Of course, this is a joke, if you’re seriously concerned about symptoms you’ll go and see your GP and that’s the reason why doctors aren’t allowed to treat themselves…but, there is something known as medical student syndrome. Definition: the tendency for medical students to experience the symptoms of the disease they’re studying.

“Do you know what you want to specialise in?”

Why does everyone ask everyone else this? Why do I ask everyone this? Stepping into the clinical environment I suppose it’s natural to start wondering which fields would suit you and which you could see yourself in the future. This question will come from fellow students, doctors, nurses, other healthcare professionals and quite often from patients themselves.

“Who’s free for lunch?”

The most asked question in my group chats this year. In clinical years every person has a different timetable for every single day. In the earlier years of medical school you tend to be in a group of people who’ll all have sessions together, but in 3rd year we pick our own ward rounds and clinics to end up with a totally custom-made timetable (you can see some of my typical timetables here). Everyday at lunch time someone would send this message on the group chat. In the end we joked that we need to make a group called “who’s free for lunch?” solely for linking up at lunch. It’s nice to catch up with friends who’re on different placements to you and you can all share experiences over your lunch break. One talks about their ward round experience, clinic experience, bedside teaching they had, gives a heads up for a certain teaching session etc.

Formally we have clinical debrief every week where we discuss the week and share experiences, but let’s be honest, lunch time was our real debrief time.

“I’m so tired”

Another one you’ll hear from yourself and from others time and time again. Starting clinical years brings a new feeling of tiredness and exhaustion like never before (a bit more about that here). Students are tired pretty much all the time, but when you start clinical years the mental exhaustion is combined with physical exhaustion of being on wards (trust me, being stood up for 4 hours in an morning following around a ward round does get tiring)!

Some days we started at 7 am to join in time for the beginning of the nursing shift. I’ve had days where I’ve been out of the house for over 12 hrs: I might have started at 7 in the morning that day and then had extra things going on in the evening so it’s safe to say some days can get really long!

“Do you know what the code is?”

Every ward you go into has locked cloakroom areas, utility areas. The number of new door codes you’ll have to remember by the end of the year will pile up. Every time you rotate placements you’ll have to ask around for all the codes. We normally don’t have to stay on our own wards when on a particular placement and can go to talk to patients on any ward, so again, with every new environment you go to, codes are needed. You’ll ask people, people will ask you. Ultimately a question you’ll get used to asking and hearing over and over again.


Hope you enjoyed this post! These were some top phrases that came to my mind… I wonder what else everyone’s heard during their clinical years. Comment and let me know!


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Posted by:Life of a Medic

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