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

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

First Day on GP Placement

FIRST GP DAY – Monday:

I started my GP placement yesterday at a rural, yet busy GP practice outside of Carlisle.

Who we saw:

We saw a total of 9 patients in surgery and 1 patient was a home visit. I’ll briefly describe each to get a feel of the variety of patients, their symptoms and our treatment steps.

Our first Gentleman presented with ear scarring that was originally a large bump/ wound. He was given cream and had no/ to little effect. Due to this, he was referred to Dermatology but not before he also volunteered for his flu jab!

Woman presented with shoulder pain, not a lot that could be done other than pain management and an x-ray being booked.

The next gentleman was well known to my Dr. He is currently under review as he has had malignancy within his lungs. Thrilled that his chest and lungs sound clear. Booked for further review.

We had my first child in. He was a 14 month old who had been ill for a week now and has had a constant high temperature. Not eating or drinking and passing no urine. Mum was extremely emotional so a precautionary admission to the paediatrics on-call at the hospital.

An interesting one. A lady came in following recent tests. Her HLA-B27 (human leukocyte antigen) gene test was POSITIVE. Whilst a positive HLA-B27 gene is not always a sign, she fit many of the criteria for ankylosing spondylitis and as such, had her first diagnosis. She was referred to Rheumatology.

A young lady had concerns for scar tissue on her nose from where a doctor abroad had taken away a query cyst. Scar tissue looked normal and didn’t show any indication of malignancy.

An other young mum brought in her baby boy. He had a wheeze however didn’t show signs of laboured breathing. His ears were red but his temperature wasn’t highly raised. He was prescribed a course of antibiotics and mum reassured.

We had another review patient who came in and we requested repeat bloods and cholesterol.

Part of a GP’s workload also includes home visits. I was fortunate enough to be invited along – an elderly, almost completely bed ridden lady who also suffers from Raynauld’s Disease. She presented with the feeling of stocking legs where she felt as if she was wearing compression stockings and had pain. Her pedal pulses were check and we weren’t concerned that she was presenting with possible DVT. District nurses were informed and would visit to ensure all is okay.

We also had a few phone calls to make – one to a patient to inform them that results had come in and were absolutely fine. They were an anxious patient so calling was a way of putting them at ease.

The second call was a bit different. It was a request from safeguarding for information regarding a mother, her unborn baby and the baby’s father. The father had been red flagged at appointments as being under the influence of drugs. They requested any information as to his substance abuse, mental health and admissions.

What I learnt:

  • I was given the opportunity to listen to a child’s laboured breath sounds.
  • I was able to look at a young child’s ears and see how red they are.
  • I was able to examine scar tissue closely and confirm no malignant markers.
  • I was shown how to refer and fill in referral forms to the hospital for various specialities.
  • I was shown how to approve medications for repeat prescriptions.
  • I was shown the admin sides of a GP’s role.
  • I was fortunate to experience the reception side of a practice too.

Overview:

A large variety of patients, all requiring different needs and clinical advice. A large learning curve but more hands on than I imagined. It’s set this week up to be really, really, exciting!

Categories
gamsat UCAT

Revision Sunday’s..

I was up early this morning and finished my first ever run through of Friends from start to finish. I’m both heartbroken and thrilled; heartbroken it ended and thrilled to watch it all again! 🙂

My housemate, Lauren finished her MSc a few months ago and gave me her flip chart paper for revision, which was really kind!

I’ve started using a random quote generator and began to ‘brainstorm’ my ideas around it. Pros and cons, what the quote means, what the quote is telling you, whether I agree or disagree.

Hoping to get into the habit of analysing quotes and it almost becoming second nature. I used to love English at school and did really well at GCSE. Throughout my degrees, essays have been a big part of my learning so I do feel quite confident with the structure and building of an essay.

I’m hoping to also crack on with some science revision too. I’m thinking Physics as I truly detested it at school so will definitely need to begin from scratch!

A positive day for revision! 🙂

Categories
The Application

The Journey Begins

I’m one of many UK Graduates who are looking high and aiming for Medicine.

I work full-time in the NHS, volunteer as a Community First Responder for the North West Ambulance Service and balance studying in between!

Currently, I’m focused on taking the GAMSAT and UKCAT in 2019 for September 2019 application to Med Schools.

My choices:
Nottingham
Swansea
Warwick
St George’s London

Trying to keep motivated with study and hoping blogging alongside will help!

Follow my updates on Instagram: @graduate_medic 🙂