So while the Game of Thrones finale was a big disappointment…this blog will not be! I am currently procrastinating studying for my two upcoming tests, seminar and essay, so what better way to forget about all the work I have to do, by writing about all the work we do 😉 As a high school student and even first year university student, I always remember being curious about what the medical school course looked like – sure it would consist of mostly theory in Phase One (Years 2 – 3) and Phases Two & Three (Years 4 – 6) would involve clinical attachments at various hospitals in the upper North Island, but if you’re anything like me, you’ll crave a detailed breakdown of each part (yay for lists!). Here’s what we study in Phase One (Years 2 – 3) of Medical School.
Throughout the year we study in short modules (6-8 weeks) at a time. Each module is usually based around an organ system in the body. For our lectures, researchers and doctors teach us about anatomy (how things look) and physiology (how things work). We extremely grateful to also have many opportunities in lectures where patients with the relevant condition come in to talk about their experiences.
2) Labs (Dissection & Microanatomy)
We have two main types of labs. Most exciting are our Human Anatomy Labs where we learn from cadavers which have been donated for our learning. It’s an eye-opening experience and something that people usually have lots of mixed feelings about before starting medical school – a combination of feeling unsure/curious/nervous/excited! However, the University does a great job of easing us into it and by the time you’re in third year, you’ll be really comfortable with the idea. A group of ~10 medical students are assigned to the same cadaver all year, together you’ll finally see what you’ve learnt in lectures and textbooks in real life. We also have microanatomy labs, where we look into microscopes and look at the finer details of organs and tissues in the module we’re studying at the time.
3) Clinical Skills
Unlike lectures where all ~280 of us squeeze into one lecture theatre, we are broken up into small groups to learn the clinical and practical skills relevant to each module. We learn things like how to use stethoscopes, take blood pressure measurements, perform an abdominal exam, and take a patient history. Most of the time we practice on each other, but sometimes actors come in to help us out (as we usually just end up laughing too much when doing them on each other haha!).
4) Small Group Discussions
In groups of ~10 medical students, we basically sit in a circle (group therapy vibes?), and discuss thought-provoking topics related to Medicine, patient scenarios with difficult ethical dilemmas, and always encourage some healthy argument and debate! As our cohort is quite big, it is an opportunity to share your own opinions freely in a small group.
5) Early Life Development Study
When we started medical school, we are assigned to a family and their newborn baby. You visit your little baby with your partner every few months over the next two years, collecting some information about it’s milestones and development for a study. Sounds hard and complicated but in reality, it’s mostly playing with a cute baby (how fun?!) and having a lovely chat with Mum & Dad. It gives us exposure to being around the little-est patients we’ll see as doctors, especially those who didn’t have younger siblings (like me!).
Near the end of the degree, we submit a huge portfolio full of reflection, writing, poetry and art (lots of freedom to be creative with this!), that we’ve developed over the years. As lot of the medical course can feel super information-overloaded, without space to stop and think, this is a great chance to be creative with what you want to do!
7) Progress Tests
Every few months, we have a progress test, with questions based on clinical scenarios, and what to do in each patient case. This test is taken by EVERY Auckland University medical student across all years, at the same time. Basically by the end of your medical degree, you should be able to confidently answer everything in this test, so as a second or third year medical student it can seem super hard – but we try our best with what we know. It helps us to see our progress over the years of medical school and checks that we’re doctor-ready when we finish!
Years 2 & 3 of medical school are basically identical (with the format above), but Year 3 has the addition of these things:
8) Basic Life Support
In Year 3, we start attending practical sessions at the University of Auckland Tamaki Campus (such a mission to get to, but totally worth it! 😉 ) where we learn at a simulation centre what to do when someone stops breathing, their heart stops, choking etc (think advanced first aid), as well as inserting IV lines (which we’ll be trying out for the first time later this year, exciting!).
9) Medical Humanities
We get to choose one of many different humanities papers to study for a semester in Year 3. Basically they’re all still related to Medicine but with a history, ethics, art, classics twist! They are usually taught by lecturers unrelated to the Medical School, so it’s quite a refreshing course. We discuss readings and what’s happening in the world, have cool guest speakers and present our own seminars after researching a topic of our choice.
10) Hospital placements
In semester two of Year 3, we start going into hospitals (North Shore, Auckland City or Middlemore) for one afternoon every week. This is like a little taster of life ahead and to get used to the hospital environment before we start in hospitals full-time next year. Quite glad the course is set up like this as translating your theory and clinical skills that you’ve learned in medical school to actual patients is harder than it seems (and we need all the practice we can get haha!).
So as you can see, the medical course is made up of lots of little bits and pieces which all come together to give us a comprehensive understanding of what we learn and lots of opportunities to learn and re-learn!
Sonna NarayananSonna Narayanan
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What subjects do I need to ttake in yr 13 for medical school
Hey Sonna 🙂
Love reading your blogs!!
I’m currently in my final year of school (Year 13) and have been told my Careers that I would make a good doctor and, after looking into it, am interested in studying medicine… however, I’m kind of scared and don’t know if I’m up to it given how hard people say studying medicine actually is :/
How is the study load? Do you find that you still get time to yourself to relax and be with your friends? – I’m a really hard working student, however I don’t want all of my university years to only be from behind a desk.
Would really appreciate the help… Don’t really know what I’m doing with my life haha.
Looking forward to hearing back from you 🙂
Hi, I am currently on my last year of becoming a registered nurse at manukau institute of technology and I have realised I want to learn more and become doctor! I am going to apply for Bachelor of Health Science and Auckland Uni (fingers crossed I get in lol). Did you do biomed or health science? How did you find the work load in the first year as I will be working as a registered nurse at the same time.
This is super helpful thank you Sonna! May I ask what school you went to? (I presume in Auckland)
Hi! I’m so excited about med school! I can’t wait to open my stethoscope too! I got the electronic one (quite expensive but totally worth it because apparently you can hear real quite heart murmurs (which are sounds that denote leaky valves!))! Did you do NCEA or Cambridge btw?
Hello aspiringdoctor! Ooh that’s so cool! I did NCEA 🙂
Thanks so much for sharing your experience. It’s really helpful.
I was wondering if you needed to maintain a certain gpa in phase one (years 2-3)? As I realise that in first year, we will have to aim for the A grades -does this apply in phase one and two as well?
Hi Ellis, Happy that it was helpful for you! While it’s best to have a competitive GPA in first year as this makes up 60% of your entrance into Medicine, once you enter the programme, grades definitely don’t matter much at all (as long as you’re passing woohoo!). I’d much rather focus on things outside of uni and have some spare time, than get top grades, but that’s just my opinion 🙂
I’m a year 13 student confused on whether I’m committed enough for medicine or not :/ I want to study medicine but I don’t know if I am capable of focusing just on studying for 5+ years. What would you recommend people like me to do? Like go to Biomed or just do a bachelor of science and not medical school?
Also during the summer before going to university, what would I need to prep for if I was going to study Biomed? Because my parents are convinced that I must study and not allowing me to go on a holiday 🙁
It would be amazing if you could reply! Thank you so much!!
Medicine is actually a very hands-on, practical degree! The degree is six years long (that’s including your first year of university eg biomed/healthsci), but only the first three years are “study” focused. The last three years are quite practical – placements in hospitals all year round. In these first few years, it’s not just about focusing on studying, the cohort is small so you make some amazing friends, there’s heaps of great social events – pub crawls, balls etc, so it’s a really fun time 🙂
You can choose to do either first year biomedical science (bachelor of science) or first year health science (bachelor of health sciences) before you apply for medicine – if you decide that medicine is not ya thing at the end of the year, you could just continue on with either of those degrees. You can also switch from the biomedical science major to any of the other majors within the bachelor of science degree as well. There’s lots of flexibility!
You definitely do not need to study anything beforehand for biomed! Don’t worry – there is MORE than enough time in the semester to study and learn, while going to classes taught by your top-notch lecturers. Take the break to relax and maybe binge-read some Inside Word blogs to prep for Uni 😉
In your 1st year of med, how many hours a day did you have to study and how many hours of free time did you have (not during exams coz obv it would be full on then)?
We don’t have exams – We just have a couple of tests every 4-6 weeks! Once you get into med, there’s much less pressure to maintain perfect grades unlike first year. In my opinion, you don’t need to study everyday and you can have as much free time as you want to, it’s entirely up to you. Better grades in Medicine doesn’t always translate to being a better doctor – tests don’t take into account your clinical, professional and communication skills 🙂
Hi there Sonna
I loved reading about your experience! I’m 34 and I’m keen to go into the medical world. I’ve had my children and lived in different countries, I’ve gone around life the wrong way around! I was wondering how difficult the first year of Biomed science degree is to get into? Loved reading this blog! All the best to you!
Thanks Sonna, for chronicling your journey, this is really helpful. Approximately how many hours would you do per week to keep up with the workload?