Categories
The Application

When do you give up?

So, we’re very nearly at the end of August and two weeks today marks the 7th of September and the proposed start of term for Nottingham GEM.

I found out last Thursday (confirmed on Friday) that I am now second on the GEM waiting list. The list has had sone very strong movement and it’s been really quite consistent. That was until last week. Last week saw only one place movement.

I have 2 weeks to move 2 places. Seems easy enough right? So why am I panicking? Someone has to be number one when they stop the intake from the waiting list. Is that going to be me? Should I be booking the GAMSAT and UCAT (that I cancelled) and be preparing for another application cycle?

“One place a week and you’re in” – very true words of advice from a friend. “There’s always people who drop out last minute/ when the course starts!” – again, very true.

Let’s face it. It’s been a struggle the whole way and I never thought I would get this far or this close. It seems too close for it not to work in my favour but then again, this is GEM. It’s anything but predictable.

When is it okay to give up hope? I’ve been trying to keep optimistic and have been posting on TSR with positive, moral-boosting posts but really, I’m worried. I don’t have the hope or confidence that everyone else has for me. I also don’t want to admit defeat but I’m worried that I’ll be faced with reapplying and I’ll dismiss it. It’ll be my last chance for Nottingham and I don’t want to have to do it all again.

I think it’s really important to show the negative sides to a Medicine application. It’s not easy. It’s been a whole year of hope, progress and rejection. You can’t always feel on top of the world, confident and certain. Whilst having a GEM community on Instagram and TSR is largely a positive thing, it’s important to remember that we often only see the ‘highlights’, the good bits, the successes and the ‘worthy’ posts.

Obviously not all GEM/ Medicine ‘influencers’ are like that and I really enjoy seeing the human sides with all the emotions. The sadness, the anxiety, the pain and the struggle.

I’m finding that the waiting list and movement is constantly plaguing my life. I’m currently on a block of night shifts and I find myself waking up during the day to refresh my emails and check TSR. I know that there’s nothing I can do but a little message or a notification is the only hope I have at the moment.

As usual I’ll email to see if there’s movement at the end of the week. I dread the response. Especially if it comes back and there’s been nothing. I’m wholeheartedly praying for movement, even one place throughout this week. It’s the last of my energy clinging to the hope of a place in this years intake. Why couldn’t I have been 100th on the list?! That was I’d have known from the onset that it wasn’t looking hopeful?!

I finish my shift on Saturday morning and then I’m away for a few day’s, which also marks the start of my 2 weeks of annual leave. Hopefully it’ll take my mind off of it and I’ll be in a better mindset by being distracted! Wish me luck!

Categories
The Application

How to keep cool and plan your life when you’re on a GEM waiting list

So, it’s no secret that I was placed on the Nottingham waiting list for 2020 Graduate Entry Medicine. I was originally 25th.

At first I was a bit disheartened but welcomed the fact that I wasn’t closer to the 100’s as Nottingham can operate with high numbers on their waiting lists each year. I found it comforting to know that Sarb reassured me that I could email her when I wanted and as much as I liked to find out if it had moved.

Initially, I didn’t really feel like I had a chance and got on with life as normal. Occasionally there would be news on TSR to say that someone had an offer and that they are number X originally. I was able to predict where I would be/ how many places I’d loved. Almost weekly, I would email Sarb for an update, who by the way, I have found to be lovely and extremely efficient! I dread to think how many emails she gets daily from waiting list-ers asking where they are!

Over the weeks my position slipped down to 17th, then to 11th, then to 9th and as of last week, I was 8th. Yesterday, I was informed that someone had enquired about movement and that the list had moved by 20 places. Making me 5th.

The course is due to start on the 7th September and the list will be used until then. With quite a steady movement and at times a rapid drop, it began to seem realistic that the list will move 5 places in 26 days. I also learned that SGUL hadn’t made their offers unconditional yet, meaning that there could still be Nottingham insurance offers being held by their students.

“Shit! How can you cope with the stress and uncertainty of it all?” – text from my mum, yesterday.

I think GEM applications have always been filled with stress and uncertainty from day 1. You work so hard for something and when you’re placed on a waiting list, it’s easy to think it’ll never happen and then life throws you some optimism as a reminder that actually, you COULD make it.

So what am I doing to prepare for a possible place at Nottingham?

I’ve spoken to my landlord to let him know of my circumstances. He’s very chill and happy to be kept in the loop. I’d love to stay where I am but who knows if I can juggle a commute/ few days in Derby and keep my life where I am too.

I’m speaking to my manager/ work. Again, she’s very good to me and I’d love to give a decent amount of notice but of course we don’t know that yet. In the ideal world, I would be able to keep my job. My manager is also a reference. So providing Nottingham check them all (academic and work experience references) then my manager may already know before me about my offer.

I’m going to the bank on Friday to talk about them taking on my car finance (bank loans/ consolidation loans from your bank are at a much, much lower interest rate). This will ensure I can keep my car as I only have 2 years left to pay it off and the cost will be cheaper to manage on my student wage. I’m fortunate to have already applied for Student Finance.

I’ve looked at my options for parking and found it to be reasonably priced. I’ve also considered the options for accommodation/ hotels/ air bnb/ b&b. If I’m only in a few days which are consecutive, I’ll commute and stay over. I don’t want to be paying for accommodation/ rent for a property that I won’t use in my first semester/ term.

Now you wait?

Yep! Now I wait. A lot of things I’ve done are just to let people know/ keep them informed of my situation. I can’t really make any firm, life changing plans just yet. However, I hope I’ll be as ready as I’ll ever be, should I get an offer.

Do you really think you’ll get an offer?

I’m being cautiously optimistic but yes. I do think I will get an offer. I’ll believe it when I see it but I do think my chances are very good. I never thought it would come to the low, single digits of the waiting list and I dread to be that person who is at number 1 and never gets a place. Medicine is tough, especially GEM. I think I’ve done bloody well for a ‘practice’ application!

Categories
The Application

Finishing the 2019/2020 Application Cycle – My First

My first application cycle for medicine truly came to a close on Friday, when Nottingham released their waiting list rankings.

I opened the email and expect the words “you are 156th on the waiting list”. Scrolling through to the very bottom, I was instead met with the words “you are 25 on the waiting list”.

At first I felt relief. It wasn’t as bad as I’d thought. Then the self-doubt set in and I accepted that although it was better than I’d expected, it would never be good enough to meet an offer.

I did my usual routine of informing those nearest and dearest and viewed The Student Room. My placement on the waiting list seemed relatively average. There were other people who were pretty much guaranteed an offer and those who were resigned to not getting one due to the sheer size of the list. Everyone was very supportive and open about their rankings.

It was only then that someone mentioned that last year there were 96 people on the Notts waiting list and people in the last 20’s – early 30’s were given offers. I also always remember the story of someone getting an offer in September!

This application had started out as being a practice run. I then ended up scoring well on the GAMSAT. I then got selected to complete the Nottingham work experience questionnaire. I then got my interview invite and I finally got told that I would be waiting listed. Absolutely not bad for a first time, ‘practice’ application!

I’m now in limbo and I’m having to decide if I pay/ register for the UCAT and GAMSAT. I am thinking that I’ll register the sit both and cancel if I need to. The UCAT is fully refundable yet the GAMSAT is a bit particular so will have to try and be strategic with that, although I may not sit it again at all. I don’t want to do it at home and my score can be used from last year.

Throughout I’m remaining optimistic and hopeful. The journey this far has been tough and has been a lot of blood, sweat and tears. The waiting list has moved since Friday and a few offers have been given out, meaning I should have moved up a few places. Time to keep my fingers crossed and prepare for the worst but hope for the best!

Categories
gamsat

Post-GAMSAT Results

As predicted, on the 8th November, September 2019 GAMSAT results were posted and I woke up to the email that we all dread to receive. I spent the morning pondering on whether I would even open my results or spend my next few weeks being in blissful ignorance. I was taking that long deciding what to do that I was running late for work.

Within the first 40 minutes at work, I was being pestered to open my results. When I was asked why I didn’t want to, people seemed shocked to hear that if my score didn’t meet the minimum cut offs, then 3/4 of my universities would be sending me rejections. I knew applying to so many GAMSAT universities was a gamble and up until this point, my only UCAT (previously UKCAT) university had been my only realistic choice.

Of course, I finally caved into peer pressure and was welcomed with the following scoring:
S1: 55
S2: 66
S3: 50
Total score: 55

I was thrilled! I’d improved in every section with the most being my section 3 result by up to 12 points! Overall an improvement on March by an overall score of 7. I had been told that there was no way you could improve to this level.

So, what did this mean going forward? All 4 of my university choices for medicine are still in play. Whilst my scoring is low and on the cusp of some, it’s not unheard of to get in with a GAMSAT score of 55. I also hold an MSc qualification which goes in my favour.

My Universities:

Nottingham – Last years cut off was 55. With Nottingham’s sensible and more lenient scoring (S1+S2+S3/3) I’m actually given a higher score of 57. Last year this would have gotten me an interview. As the percentiles this year are very similar to last, I’m hoping to just manage to get in with this.

St George’s, London – I don’t have high hopes for meeting SGUL’s cut off this year however, I’m not too bothered as the cost of living and studying in London could be a huge obstacle for me anyway.

Swansea – Swansea have had quite high cut offs and I imagine it’s due to their success in the league tables. I am sure they’ll reject me due to GAMSAT score.

Warwick – My only UCAT university and previously my only hope of getting into medicine this year. With a score of 2550 and band 2, it’ll be close as last years scoring was 2570. Again, I’m fortunate to have my MSc as good backing. The 2570 was the minimum score an undergraduate degree holder candidate got interviewed with, there is no say as to what the minimum score for PhD/ MSc holders was and I’m hoping this will swing in my favour as the higher qualifications are awarded greater points.

Waiting Game:

Last year Nottingham sent work experience request forms to all candidates that met their cut off on the 21st November 2019. I’m hoping to hear back from them this week to know if I’ve met their GAMSAT cut off and whether they are interested in interviewing me. I shouldn’t have any problems with my work experience and have all my references already gained.

Warwick advertise that they open their interview booking by the 3rd December. Again, it should only be a matter of time before they let applicants know whether they have met the minimum UCAT cut off and have satisfactory work experience to be invited to interview.

Swansea and St George’s will be letting applicants know of the cut offs shortly.

Food for thought:

Whilst everyone wishes for a GAMSAT score of over 70 or a UCAT score of 3000+ and Band 1, at the end of the day, if you make the minimum cut off then you’ll be invited to interview. I have found that the road to medicine is difficult and there as so, SO many hurdles to overcome, especially when Graduate Entry Medicine is extremely competitive. There are going to be failures and set backs.

I would love to be interviewed for Warwick and Nottingham and would be honored to be offered a place to study medicine at either! I’m incredibly humbled to be sat with a GAMSAT score I’m pleased with and still have a shot with my application for GEM 2020 entry.

Categories
UCAT

UCAT 2019 Final Scores

On the 7th October, the UCAT Consortium released the final statistics and results for 2019 testing. As the interim results had shown, 2019 took a slight decrease from the average and the 2018 scores.

The 2019 scores are as follows:
Verbal Reasoning: 565
Decision Making: 618
Quantitative Reasoning: 662
Abstract Reasoning: 638
Total Mean Score:: 2483

My Scores:
VR: 580
DM: 640
QR: 670
AR: 660
Total: 2550

Compared to the mean:
VR: +15
DM: +22
QR: +8
AR: +22
Total: +67

My percentile was calculated at 62%, meaning that I scored higher than 62% of the 29,375 candidates who stat the UCAT this year – a total of 18,213 people.

That’s great right?!

Yes, it’s great. For a first time UCAT taker and Grad Med applicant, that is a good score. My only Uni choice that will take the UCAT is Warwick and whilst I was close to their lowest cut off last year, there is still a chance that I won’t make it for this year. The positives that I have are that I am above the average for VR. I will then be scored on being in the 62nd percentile and given extra points for holding a masters qualification. Hopefully, this will give me an advantage over those with a slightly higher UCAT score and only an undergraduate degree.

 

What’s Next?

My reference came back earlier this week and I only need to perfect my personal statement and then submit my application to UCAS. After that, it’s a waiting game! I’m confident with my work experience and I have met the required minimum hours that Warwick are looking for, this will need to be submitted before selection takes place. Warwick have confirmed that selection dates for interview between the 17th-19th December. Of course, Warwick and the UCAT are only one of my options. I still have 3 GAMSAT universities in play although I do NOT feel confident about my GAMSAT score! I fully expect 3 outright rejections and should the case be that I am also rejected from Warwick (which is highly likely) I’ll be more than happy to admit defeat for 2020 entry. I will however, be back in the running for another application cycle for 2021!

Keep positive, realistic and work hard!

Categories
gamsat

The end of GAMSAT 2019

As many of you will be aware, GAMSAT testing for 2019 came to an end with the September sitting on the 11th. I booked the exam and felt optimistic that this would be my chance to see progress from March. I booked for Liverpool as I had sat there previously and had been advised that they use the same venue consistently for the GAMSAT testing – this saved me hunting for a hotel when the admission tickets were released and paying almost double the price. It also saved me making a gamble that might not pay off and having to travel to the venue in the morning, which again, could have posed a problem/ delays.

The Day Before:
As with March, I was in work the day before the exam. I work full-time and hadn’t wanted to take unnecessary time off that wouldn’t have been productive. Other than travelling down to Liverpool early, I wouldn’t have spent the day prepping or doing any further revision. Work kept my mind off the exam and the day went quite quickly. Now, I could tell a significant difference in my stress levels. Whilst in March I was quite tense and was obsessing about the exam, I managed to get through the day with my only concerns being related to travel.

It must have been a sign as I made the first half of my journey to find that Northern had cancelled my second train with very little notice (it wasn’t showing online and the station admitted that it had only just been relayed to them). This meant that I had over an hours delay/ wait before I could continue my journey. It wasn’t the smoothest of trips but luckily I did manage to navigate via an additional train journey and got into Liverpool just after 9pm.

I headed straight to the hotel (conveniently passing the nearest McDonalds), checked in and got everything sorted for the next day.

GAMSAT Day:
I got up and went for an early morning run around the streets of Liverpool before returning to the hotel for breakfast, which I had booked in advance. After plenty to eat, I checked out and made the walk down to the test centre. Registration opened at 8:15am and I arrived just after 8:20am. Registration was very quick and a smooth process. After depositing my bag and getting settled in my seat, there was still time to kill.

Once 9am approached, we were all eager to get started however there was delay due to travel (there had been a train broken down on the rails near Lime Street) and the weather wasn’t particularly good so the invigilators were allowing extra time; especially as candidates were still due to arrive.

At roughly 9:15, the announcements began.
“Hello and welcome to GAMSAT”.

The Morning Session:
Section 1 was relatively typical of what I expected following on from March. The texts covered medical labeling and autism diagnosis. Poems comparing nature and death. Themes of war posters and their meanings. Poems highlighting how underappreciated poetry is and a Greek comparison of Athens and Alexandria.

Overall, I didn’t find this section too challenging. It had been similar to previous tests and didn’t throw too much text heavy passages. Very light on the cartoons for interpretation. My only worry (which I realised later on during Section 3, did I put my signature in the ‘candidate signature’ box? Who knows? Definitely not me but I’m hoping for £262, my name and identifiable information will be enough for them to justify marking it).

Section 2 began straight after section 1 was completed. Topics weren’t great. Comments relating to taxes and tolerance.

Taxes touched on how tax policies are a reflection of a countries values. Tax evasion and tax avoidance. How if people are not relying on support from others (government/ society) then they will support themselves.

Tolerance was based around whether there should be limitations on tolerance and whether society is too tolerant.

Again, this was manageable and whilst I didn’t enjoy the topics, I was still able to write good amounts.

LUNCH!:
My favorite time of the day. Luckily, next to the venue in Liverpool, there is a little Tesco which must make it’s fortunes on the sheer number of GAMSAT-ers twice a year that frequent for much needed snacks.

At this point, my appetite was rather small. I knew that this was half of the testing day over. I also was well aware that this lead on to the dreaded Section 3 which was my downfall last year. In all honesty, I had very little hopes for this next half of the exam and again, I wondered why I had bothered to sit it in the first place.

The Afternoon Session:
After joining the queues and replicating registration again, it was time to be seated back in the exam hall. The afternoon session is Section 3 – Sciences.

As reading time commenced, I skimmed the paper and began starting to read through and work out some of the questions. At first the paper seemed overwhelming. So. Many. Questions. So. Little. Time. Where were you supposed to begin? I don’t even understand the question, let alone the answer!

I began by really concentrating on the questions – these are supposed to be answerable with actually very little science knowledge which meant that the answers were actually in the question somewhere. Look closely or you’ll miss it.

I set off at good pace and started to tick the questions off. I felt joy and relief when my questimated/ worked out answer was one of the options provided on the multiple choices.

2 hrs and 50 minutes goes incredibly quickly when you’re concentrating and giving your all to the questions. Inevitably, I began to run out of time. I was rushing towards the end to ensure that I at least had an answer marked on the answer sheet for every question. I went back and made somewhat educated guesses (let’s hear it for letter C!).

Before I knew it, we had the final time warning. I did what I could in the time and with a sense of accomplishment and relief, GAMSAT 2019 was done.

What I Leaned:
Sitting GAMSAT as a trial run/ more than once is absolutely priceless for expelling the stress and uncertainty of the exam. I was incredibly calm in comparison to March and I could definitely tell the first time exam takers.

GAMSAT is a gamble. You really don’t know what you’re going to get. After the curve ball of an exam in March, it would be easy to assume the same would be applied for the September sitting. This is not the case. Acer are cruel and they make you work for it. Don’t underestimate the exam.

So what? It takes you 8 attempts to ‘pass’ GAMSAT? I remember being told that someone had sat GAMSAT 8 times. Regardless of the financial element to this, 4 years of GAMSAT testing is hard going but not impossible. The majority of people who sit GAMSAT do so multiple times before they are ‘happy’ with their score/ get into University.

You’re never ‘too old’. I hadn’t really noticed in March but certainly in this sitting, there were a few people sitting who were middle-aged/ older than your average graduate at 22/23. Let that be a lesson that you’re never too old to attempt to follow your dreams or make a drastic career change. Life experience is why Grad Med doctors are so fantastic.

I made the right decision to sit the UCAT early and to not book it for after GAMSAT. Before most people had even booked their UCAT, I had sat mine in July. Whilst I felt out of the loop and extremely premature with testing (one of the first people to take the test at my chosen test centre), it helped hugely to get it out of the way. After the stress of GAMSAT, the last thing I wanted to have was the stress of having to cram for my UCAT, whilst having to finish off my application. It hugely paid off for me and I ended up scoring well in the UCAT despite being an early tester.

You never know how you do. I left the exam and felt that it was tough but I also felt a lot more confident than I did with the March sitting. I know many other GAMSAT-ers that felt it was the most brutal, soul-destroying exam that they have ever taken (including multiple GAMSAT attempts)! Acer will email to confirm that results have been published online but if you have applied, you will also get notification from your Universities as to how you’ve done.

Overall – I felt as content as I could be with the September 2019 GAMSAT. It was by no means an easy test nor an easy option. I’m applying for this year’s applications so will know when my Universities know. Am I worried that I might not get in? Absolutely not. Am I worried that I might get in/ an interview? Absolutely!

I have a personal statement to polish off and I’m awaiting my reference to be completed. It’s a month to go until the calm before the storm. I’m cramming in some extra HCA shifts to help wish the time away, my sister is also getting married between now and the 15th October.. Wish me luck!

Categories
UCAT

UCAT Score and Tips

Today I sat my UCAT exam and scored incredibly average – and I’m okay with that.

I was one of the first two people to sit it at the test centre as everyone else had the sense to book it for later on in the year. I was terrified, sat waiting to go in. I must admit, all the ladies in the test centre were absolutely lovely and supportive. They were asking questions about where I was applying and whether it was Medicine or Dentistry that I was interested in.

VR:
I ran out of time in the first section and didn’t get a chance to go back and review any questions, there were even some questions that I missed entirely. I was adamant that a good UCAT score was out the window now. It shook my confidence enough for me to wonder why I was even attempting this.

DM:
I found DM to be not too awful. I had time to go through and answer the questions, flag those that I wasn’t too sure of and come back and review them. I didn’t feel as pressured for time as I had done in VR.

QR:
My most dreaded section. I know the maths is not ‘challenging’ but I hate maths. Always have, always will. Again, I didn’t feel as pressured for time but definitely was conscious of how much time I spent on these questions and working things out. I felt relieved when I’d worked out calculations and the answer I had gotten was actually in the list of possible answers!

AR:
At first, I was really thrown by these. I couldn’t grasp the pattern between the sets and knew that if I couldn’t find it, that the next 4/5 questions would need to be educated guesses. Once I had gotten into the swing of the questions, I was able to identify patterns quite quickly and blitz through the questions. I then went back and ensured the ones I had guessed had a second look over.

SJ:
Situational Judgement was structured a little bit differently as to how I had practiced. I wasn’t too concerned with the section at all and managed to get through with time to spare.

Overall score:
VR: 580
DM: 640
QR: 670
AR: 660
TOTAL SCORE: 2550
SJ: Band 2

At first I was a little disheartened with my score. It wasn’t close to 3000 like you dream of. Then I was relieved. I had worried that I was going to do a lot worse and had originally said to myself that if I scored over 2500, I would be pleased. Warwick’s cut off for last year was 2570, which means I would need a decrease in cut off score to be in with a chance of an invite to interview. I then released how pleased I was with the score. The difference between an invite to interview and my score last year was 20 points. If I had scored 600 in VR, I would have 2570. My initial and practice scores on Medify were terrible. I had contemplated not taking the exam today and very nearly cancelled it to reschedule.

I know where my faults are – I should have revised sooner, I should have utilized timed practices, I should have booked the exam later and most importantly, I should have been more confident in myself!

At this moment in time, I was capable of an average score, that’s just below last year’s cut offs. If the worst case scenario happens and I don’t get offered an interview at Warwick, my GAMSAT prep is not sufficient enough and I don’t get interviewed at my other 3 choices, then I will be taking the UCAT next year and I KNOW that if I retake it again, I will be aiming for that 3000!

Tips:
Whilst you’re probably thinking what can I possibly learn from someone who scored terribly?

UCAT and Medicine applications each year are down to luck. A score of 2570 would have gotten you an interview last year whereas a few years ago, the cut off was closer to 2700.

Self-confidence is really important! Exams are scary. Especially when they’re the obstacle that’s in the way between you and your dream of studying Medicine. However, you want this and chances are, you’ve spent the time revising, you’ve learnt the test format and you have a brain in that head. Give yourself credit for attempting and embarking on this journey. You’re probably capable of more than you give yourself credit for.

Buy Medify for practice. My scores improved HUGELY with Medify. I honestly don’t know what I would have done without it. If I have to take the exam next year, it’s the first purchase I’m making. Medify mimics the format and layout of the exam. There are minor differences but overall is the closest you’re going to get to the real thing. It’s also computer based so you can practice completing the test electronically instead of making the transfer from a book/ paper to a computer.

Flags are your friend – unlike American Football where a flag on a play is a bad thing, flags in UCAT are your friend. Time is definitely against you in some sections and instead of spending precious seconds struggling though for an answer on one question, flag it and return later. Don’t fall into the same trap that I did and run out of time – think of the precious points!!

It is recommended that you practice under test conditions – no noise etc. however, I found that I performed better with noise. A TV or another person sat in the room made a big difference. It also meant that when I sat the exam today, I wasn’t bothered by people getting up and leaving/ entering the room. It can be infuriating when you’re concentrating and the guy next to you is doing nothing but sighing because he’s hating his Driving Theory test..

Don’t be disheartened if you don’t get the score you were hoping for – I know I didn’t get that perfect number! Medicine is a challenge and its been made that way on purpose. There will be many people who will only dream of taking the exam. There will be some who take it and never do anything with it. There will be some who score exactly as you have and are proud to have achieved that! Remember it’s about the luck of the draw. If you don’t take the test and apply, you’ll never get that possibility of being offered a place. Getting a score that you’re disappointed with is not failure, it’s a stepping stone for your next attempt.

Categories
Uncategorized

Let’s Talk Mental Health

I’m a big advocate for mental health. I have been through my fair share of breakdowns, I’ve self-harmed and I’ve hit (what I thought was) absolute rock bottom.

Recently, I’ve felt as though my mental health was taking a bashing. I’ve been concentrating on work (I work with vulnerable people within the NHS’s mental health system and community services) and have recently taken on an additional full-time service to my current full-time service. Alongside this, we have had a patient in crisis and suffering from suicidal thoughts and attempts. I’m preparing for my UCAT (previously UKCAT) which is booked for the 27th July and have felt like if anything, I’m getting worse rather than better. I have felt tired all the time and spend very little of my social life with friends, having any aspect of a dating life, or any activities at all.

At that moment, I felt like I was worthy of nothing, that I had completed and achieved nothing. That I would never amount to anything. Why was I even bothering with Medicine when I would never get there?

What I did next:

As bizarre as it may be, I posted to Instagram about my spell of depression. I wanted my studygram to be as real as possible. It’s so easy to get caught up in the happiness and perfection on social media, especially in Medicine. The truth is; life is messy. Medicine comes with setbacks and rejections.

I was overwhelmed by the supportive comments and messages that I received. More importantly, I had messages from other pre-meds or med students who have been in the exact same position.

We are all human, we all suffer the downfalls and relish the rises. We swear to live by the life quotes. Want to meet our soulmates. Live for the moments. Reach the dreams.
We’re hit by heartbreak and disappointment. We fail. We’re rejected.
And this is okay.

My tips for mental health care:

Remember what’s important.
Remember that YOU are important.
Your goals are achievable.
Everyone has been in your shoes at some point.
AND they’ve overcome it just as you will.
Find your passion again.
Take time to be you.
Find silence and peace.
DON’T recluse.

 

 

Categories
gamsat

March GAMSAT Reflections

The March sitting of GAMSAT has been and gone and whilst results are not due to be released until the middle of next month, it’s given me some time to reflect on how it went.

Things you need to know:
March was my first sitting of GAMSAT.
I have read many horror stories about this exam, full blown excruciating pain-worthy stories.
I spent a lot of time procrastinating and felt rather underprepared.
Despite having some science background, I felt awfully underprepared for section 3.

The Decision to Take GAMSAT:
I booked my GAMSAT registration on New Years Day, 1st January 2019. A little New Years resolution to myself and the kick I needed. If I didn’t book it now, when would I?
I plan on applying for Graduate Entry Medicine in September for 2020 entry. After hearing all about GAMSAT and how grueling it could/ would be, I was determined to have a ‘trial’ run with the exam for the experience and general know-how. I’m currently in the North of England and so I booked for Liverpool as my test center.

The Preparation:
I wish I could say that I spent weeks of hard work and determination spent on the run up to GAMSAT. In reality, I did what any other person does, procrastinate, put off and prioritized topics that I liked or got the hang of. I kept countdowns and a calendar view of the days running up to the exam date. I found the biggest flaw for materials and prep are the overly expensive courses and books. I unfortunately do not have the money to join numerous prep courses or online seminars, nor do I have the time to spare when working a full-time job, Mon-Fri, along with all the other necessary volunteering and general social life that I have (or lack of).. My local library was a huge help for getting books and materials that I could never have afforded.
Materials:
A-Level text books – Biology, Chemistry and Physics.
Books – for reading, wide varieties and topics.
Gold Standard – I bought this a while ago and so use it every now and again.
AC Grayling – The Meaning of Things – Good prep for section 2.
Hebe’s Notes – A webpage designed by Hebe who sat the GAMSAT herself and she now shares her notes openly (if you find them useful then please donate.)
Des O’Neil, Acer – Past papers.

The Day Before:
I worked my day as usual. I hadn’t felt stressed until I suddenly realized that this was it. There was no more time for cramming, or anything that would be useful that is. By the time I left work and made my train it was just gone 18:00. In 24 hours this would all be over.

I made it into Liverpool by 21:00. I had already looked into what was near that I could grab food from before heading to the hotel (I stayed in the new Premiere Inn at Liverpool Lime Street). There was a handy McDonald’s down the road (healthy, I know) so I picked up some food before checking in for the night. Ideally, I would have gone for a wander to have scoped out the venue and where it was before tomorrow morning but by this time I was tired and just wanted to shower and get an early night.

I watched some TV and tried to do some light revision but I guarantee it did not go in.

GAMSAT Day:
I woke up just before 05:00. I had dreamt that I was due to take GAMSAT and was running late and was going to miss it. I remember it being such a vivid dream and waking up panicked! I tried to doze off again but with no luck.

By the time I got everything sorted for the day and packed up, checked out, It was just before 08:00. I used Google Maps to track where I was going and managed the quick dash to the venue. It was easily spotted by everyone lurking outside and looking equally as nervous. I tried to distance myself away from everyone as I didn’t want to fall into the trap of overhearing conversations and getting anymore put off. There was a girl there with her parents and her dad was anything but supportive, my idea of the nightmare pre-exam scenario to have a parent telling you how badly you’ll do if you don’t know X and Y by now.

We were let into the building and started to queue down to the registration desks. They were organizing candidates by last name groupings. ID and tickets were checked and you were ‘ticked off’ as attending the first session. We were given seat numbers and told to report into the hall. After dumping bags in a separate room, I found my seat. It was gone 09:00 before everyone was registered and seated to begin. There was easily 300 candidates sitting in Liverpool and I had heard that candidates wanting to sit in London couldn’t due to the London venue being fully booked.

Then the exam invigilator said those dreaded words “Welcome to GAMSAT“.

Section 1:
I didn’t really know how I was going to get on with section 1 but the passages didn’t seem too bad, no long winded passages, over and over. Some even had medical themes so were genuinely interesting. There were texts that were more ‘wordy’ and required more reading time. Overall, I actually found it not too bad and definitely a good ease in to GAMSAT.

Section 2:
Section 2 followed section 1, there were no breaks in between and you could not leave to go to the toilet. The two topics were actually quite good, I was able to find one topic that I felt would be manageable and that I could write about for each. Reading time was really useful here for picking my choices and deciding my arguments for and against. I found that I could have built a better structure and made it sound a bit more articulated but overall again, it was relatively painless.

Lunch:
There was then an hour lunch break and luckily there was a Tesco round the corner to grab some food. I hadn’t eaten breakfast but hardly do and now I felt more at ease, was starting to feel a little hungry. I knew section 3 would be a large push to the end so I needed all the help I could get in the nutrition side of things.

Section 3:
After coming back from lunch, we all queued again and were registered in for the afternoon session. I couldn’t help feeling nervous. Out of all the sections, I knew that section 3 would be my downfall. Reading time came and went and all I saw was a blur of graphs.
If you have read anything about the March sitting, you’ll probably have already noticed that it was far from your usual and predictive GAMSAT syllabus. Whilst I won’t go into specific questions, I will say that there was a large amount of graphs, Maths, Physics and interpretation. The general feeling was that Acer were trying a new approach with section 3 and that it was very much a curve ball. I don’t think any amount of my preparation made me ready for section 3. Everyone was thrown in the deep end and we were all hazarding guesses.

After it Was Over:
When we had finished up, everyone darted off on their separate paths. No-one was coming away bragging that it was easy, no-one was trying to put people down, everyone really did feel in the same boat. The same boat without a paddle, heading for waterfalls very, very quickly. A lot of talk about guess work and a lot of talk about September…

What Did I learn?
GAMSAT is absolutely a tough exam. I came away feeling drained, my back and neck hurt from being hunched over an exam desk and writing all day, followed by the hours it took to journey back. It was a long day and GAMSAT is a worthy adversary.

The experience was priceless. At the end of the day, GAMSAT is an exam, a test, just like any other. The rules are the same. The format is similar in terms of marking results on a piece of paper. It is so easy to get worked up and feel passionately about the exam and that’s okay! The reality of it is that you can only do what you can on the day.

Sitting the exam, in itself is a big achievement. I hadn’t fully believed it when I was told by a now-GP trainee, that sitting the GAMSAT is an achievement in itself. As the room was filling with candidates and papers began to get handed out, I couldn’t help but notice empty chairs. These chairs were for people, just like me, who had paid a lot of money to sit an exam that could potentially get them into Medicine. The difference? For whatever reason, these people did not turn up to take the test at all. Already, you are better off than these people.

The wait for results seems like ages. Here we are in the middle of April (just) and there’s still probably a month to go. Take this time as a blessing. Remember what it felt like to be cramming and stressing over one day? Appreciate that you have time to self-care and regenerate while you can. Whilst I want to spend this time cramming and getting ahead again with revision, there’s plenty of time to pick it back up in May.

It’s absolutely okay to not know what to do or to fail! Every step is a step in the right direction. It’s not easy to decide to take on GAMSAT or to even decide on Medicine. It’s not a straightforward line of travel, we can go off and do different things, come back again or even decide that this isn’t for us. For the time being, I’m happy to be taking some time away from GAMSAT until a few more weeks have passed. I also have UCAT to book and prepare for. I’m working on my work experience and volunteering and generally living life. I fully expect to have to retake GAMSAT in September but without a doubt, I’ll be far more prepared.

 

 

 

 

Categories
Work Experience

GP Day Wednesday

I apologise in the delay for the last end of the week, here’s Wednesday in surgery.

Wednesday in surgery and it would be assumed that a morning shift for a GP and student would be relatively quiet considering I was only scheduled to be in for a few hours…

We saw a 5 year old boy with acute tonsillitis. His Mum told us how he had just got over his last case and was suddenly suffering again. A quick check over and all seemed fine in his observations, his chest was clear and he wasn’t struggling for breath. We took a throat swab just to confirm if the infection is bacterial. All, in all, it was apparent that this young boy had seen his fair share of GPs, even his throat swab didn’t phase him! He currently already had a referral back to ENT so we didn’t have to do any referrals this time, although it was discussed that the possibility of having his tonsils removed maybe the answer. He was prescribed with antibiotics as it was fairly certain this was an ongoing bacterial infection, despite the swab, and they were advised to come back if symptoms persisted, deteriorated and to call for his results.

An elderly gentleman attended surgery for a check up on a boil that was present near his stoma site. He had previously been in and started medication to help clear this up. The difference after his short course of medication had been noticed immediately and the boil looked very minimal, swelling and redness weren’t visible and it was healing nicely. He still had 4 days worth of his medication so was advised to continue and if he had any problems, he was to come back in, although we didn’t anticipate there would be any.

A middle-aged woman came in with persistent headaches, her temporal pulse was stronger on her right side, the side associated with her headaches. She said she suffered from similar symptoms expected from conjunctivitis – matted eyes in the mornings although, on seeking advice from an optician, her eyes were given the all clear. We performed a short eye exam and put dye into her eyes, examined them under UV which showed no fluorescence. We checked all her reflexes, BP and temperature. She was booked to get bloods taken as the Dr was concerned that the headaches could be something more serious e.g. query tumor on the blood vessel that supplies the brain and optics.

A male presented with a moles on his back that his wife had noticed some colour change. He had a history of BCC so they were of course being cautious. We examined the moles and all looked normal in appearance, were soft and squidgy to the touch. There were no signs of malignancy. After informing them that they were benign they were happily sent on their way but ensured that if they had any doubts, to return.

MDT Meeting:

Every week, the practice holds a Multi-Discipline Team Meeting. It gives the opportunity to discuss patients with District Nurses, OT, Physio, Safeguarding, Care and the Cumbria ICC (Integrated Care Communities). Patients are brought to attention and any concerns that are currently held for the patient raised. This can be as simple as discussing the fact that a patient has been admitted to hospital and is due discharge, the discussion of why they were admitted and what help; if any, that they require in place for discharge.

Patients raised today were:

  • A gentleman was discussed regarding his dementia and history of falls. He is often confused as to who visits him and when, does not know who his help is and there are cognitive concerns raised by his daughter. He has a history of strokes.
  • A breast cancer and Alzheimer’s patient who’s primary carer is her husband who is battling with bowel and ? bladder cancer. It is known that the wife is palliative. Concerns for her care as her husband is also in a position of needing support, himself.
  • A male who has been involved in adult social care, DN have noticed his right leg has been swollen, he is not eating or drinking and also appears to be wearing the same clothes he was wearing last week on their visit. He lives alone and is showing signs of self-neglect despite being supported by care 4 times a day. He is housebound and is very adamant that he does not require help and will decline it rather sternly when it is offered.
  • A patient being discharged from hospital imminently of spinal stenosis and is currently catheterised. She will be followed up but the discussion was surrounding her further care at home of which, she currently has a hospital bed at home and care being provided for her.

Home Visit:

Our home visit was to an elderly gentleman who’s son had requested the visit. We arrived and it was already apparent that this gentleman was struggling. He was extremely weak, pale pallor, visibly struggling for breath and breathing laboured. His oxygen saturation was low, his chest incredibly crackly and overall presentation poor. It was apparent that he would be an admission and due to his condition it was to be via ambulance. It was explained to his son that he should get things ready for an admission and that he was query chest infection that had progressed to pneumonia. Due to the lack of landline and being in an incredibly rural area, the call for an ambulance had to wait until we were able to get back to the surgery. Not ideal but overall the better option than hunting for somewhere with signal, risking it cutting out when the time taken to get to surgery would be quicker.

Overall:

For a short session, there was an awful lot covered. It was great to meet with the other healthcare and social care that work behind the scenes of patient care but are ever bit as important as any other.

What I learned:

  • It is important to build good relationships with other health/social care professionals – it gets jobs done quicker and is much more friendly.
  • Rural house visits are rural. Be prepared to travel.
  • You may also pass the ambulance that you’ve called for on your way home from the surgery.
  • When patients come back to see you again, it is not necessarily because you’re doing a bad job, it can also be to review how well treatment is going.
  • Your patient may be a young child but the majority of the time it may feel like their parents are the patient – they worry.
  • Patients do often take your advise and do visit when they are concerned about something as trivial-seeming as a mole – it can be really important that they do and you praise them for it.
  • Your instincts are not to be ignored in medicine.