Friday, 4 January 2013

OSCEs and review of 2012

Happy New Year! I had a really good New Year's Eve. I went to a party with my boyfriend at the house of one of his family friend's. They'd obviously gone to a lot of effort decorating their house, it looked really pretty and there was copious champagne and other drinks and some awesome fireworks at midnight. I had a really good time, but I didn't drink too much and went back to my boyfriend's mum's house to sleep at 2am (much earlier than anyone else at the party), because I had my first OSCE exam on the 2nd and I wanted to spend New Year's day revising. Despite my good intentions though, I woke up on New Year's day very hungover! I didn't even drink that much, it was so not fair! I did get some revision done, but the morning of my OSCEs came and I still didn't feel fully prepared. I think I'm normally quite good at the practical skills, but because I didn't have a chance to fully practice and go over all the questions they could ask me I went into them really nervous and stressed, which I think affected my performance on the day.

I don't think that I failed my OSCEs, but I definitely didn't do as well as I know I'm capable of. There were 6 stations; history taking, abdominal examination, general examination, taking BP and BMI, CPR and searching a medical database. I think that 3 went well, 1 ok, and 2 not so well. I had the medical database searching station first and I just messed it up. The search itself went ok (not perfect though), but when the examiner was asking me questions my mind just went totally blank and I couldn't answer half of the questions even though they were things I knew.  I felt like such an idiot sat there going "I'm really sorry I don't know" and the examiner just sat staring at me. The other one which didn't go so well was the general examination. I thought that it had gone well and I did all the things that we were taught to do in our clinical skills sessions, but the examiner gave me loads of negative feedback. He scored me a 0 on examination of the hands, even though I checked for everything accept for arthritis pain (which we've never been taught to do, and the actor pretending to be a patient was younger than I am). I could see the mark sheet and he also gave me a 0 for radial pulse check even though I did this and I told him I was doing it in my running commentary. I really don't know what I did wrong, and I couldn't ask him because we're not really meant to see our mark sheets (even though he lay it right in front of me). Despite his negative feedback, I only got 0's on 3 of the marking points out of a whole page of marking points (you can only get either 0 or 1), but then I saw that he judged me as being borderline (unsatisfactory, borderline, satisfactory and excellent available), so I'm really confused about that station. I thought that my abdominal examination went worse than my general examination, but that examiner said that he was struggling to give me any negative feedback and scored me as excellent! I also didn't think that my CPR station went brilliantly, but again I got really good feedback, and after I'd got my feedback and we had time to spare, the examiner asked about my background and when he found out that I was a Pharmacist he asked my advice about how to get stock items of some drugs. It was so surreal having the examiner asking me for advice during an exam! All in all, I don't think that I've failed my OSCEs, but I don't think I've done brilliantly in them. I think that now I've got a bit more experience of how OSCEs work and how to go about doing them I'll be less nervous for the next ones however, and hopefully do better.

My written exams are next week. I'm starting to panic about them slightly and just how much information I still have to learn. I really want to do well in them, but at the moment I think I'll be happy just to pass. I heard someone say the other day "what do you call the person at the bottom of the class at med school graduation?", and the answer was "doctor". Which is true I guess. The most important thing is just to pass.

In happier news: I got a Macbook Air 13"!!!!! It's my new baby. It's so shiney and pretty! It's also incredibly light, it doesn't make any noise whatsoever and it works so so fast!

(photo taken by me)

My Review of 2012

A lot has happened over this past year.  A year ago I was working in a London hospital as a pre-reg pharmacist, and I was pretty unhappy in this job. I had applied to medical school and made the (what seemed at the time) risky decision not to apply for any Band 6 Pharmacist jobs. Thankfully I got offered 2 places at medical schools, 1 of which I accepted. In May I went to Paris with my boyfriend and had an amazing time, that's one of my best memories of the past year. 

Eiffel Tower! So pretty (photo taken by me)

In the summer I passed my pre-reg exam and became a fully qualified Pharmacist (I really thought that I'd failed that exam!). Myself and my boyfriend uprooted our lives and moved away from London and our beautiful apartment to a new flat and a new town. I started medical school and my boyfriend started a new job (which he's finally settled down into). The last few months have flown by and I have now completed my first term at medical school. It still seems alien to introduce myself as a medical student, but I'm slowly getting used to it. We've had our first patient contact and I'm slowly gaining competence in the basic medical skills such as venepuncture and taking BP. I still find medical school incredibly exciting and I'm very grateful that I'm at this place in my life. In the last few weeks I've worked my first shifts as a Pharmacist, which were incredibly scary, especially when people asked to speak to the Pharmacist (me?!) for advice. But again, I'm slowly starting to feel more competent and confident in this role, and glad to be finally earning some money. In November my cat Daisy died. She was more than just a pet to me, and literally the most intelligent, best cat in the world, and my family home seems incredibly empty and lonely without her. Recently one of my other cat's Jasper was also seriously ill, but thankfully after an operation he's much better now. To end the year, I had an amazing Christmas and New Year at home with my family, my boyfriend, and his family and received far more presents than I felt I deserved! In the last few weeks I've also finally learnt (after years of trying) how to bake good, just gooey enough brownies!

My new year's resolutions

1. I really wish that this last term I'd reviewed and made revision notes of all my lectures week by week. I can really see the importance of this now! Next term is more full on than this term, so I'm going to consciously make a big effort to try and keep on top of this, and I think that now I've got my Macbook, which I'll be taking to uni, it'll be easier to do as I'll be able to make notes in down time inbetween lectures.

2. Get fit and lose weight! I know that pretty much everyone pledges to do this, but this is something I've been meaning to do for a while so I'm going to make a proper effort to get into shape. I worked out my BMI yesterday and it's only 21.5, but over the last year I have put on a bit of weight and some of my clothes don't fit so well any more, so I just want to lose that little bit of weight and tone up. I also think it's important not to be hypocritical as a medical profession, telling people to exercise more and lose weight, if doctors don't follow their own advice.

3. I want to get my finances in order! Pay off my credit card and start saving money. Now that I'm getting locum Pharmacist work this should be pretty achievable, especially if I manage to get a lot of work over my summer holidays.


  1. Sounds like we might have had a similar experience with the medical database OSCE - what a shambles :(

  2. Searching a medical database is such an easy thing to do as well! It sounds as though you did better on it than I did though, at least you could answer the questions!

  3. Hey Purple Student Doctor! Really enjoying reading your blog? i'm fezfezed from NMM :) I was wondering if I could ask you a few questions regarding interviews as I have one coming up real soon?

    As a pharmacist, how did you answer the "why medicine" question (if you were asked this at all)? For me, it's really a lack of fulfillment within the profession, a lack of a holistic approach towards patient (too much focus on drug therapy) and I don't think I'll enjoy doing this for the rest of my career. I'm worried however that this approach seems too negative. I'm wondering if you could provide me with some advice on the best way of approaching this question.


  4. Hi TheChemist! Sorry for the delay in replying to your comment, I've had a busy few days! The "why medicine" question is always difficult, but in my experience there's no "perfect" answer and the best thing to do is just to answer honestly as it will come across as genuine, as apposed to a cheesy practiced answer. I had the same dilemma as you, not wanting to come across as being negative and "slagging off" pharmacy. I just started off by saying, "although I enjoy Pharmacy...", and then my reason which was something like "I want to undertake a more hands on role in treating patients, and be able to holistically treat all aspects of a patients condition, from diagnosis to treatment and follow up". It wasn't a perfect answer but it worked for me. I think as long as you're not too negative about Pharmacy and give reasons about why you want to do medicine, as apposed to reasons why you don't want to do Pharmacy you'll do fine. I've been told from several people that in most interviews they mainly use the "why medicine" question just to ease you in at the beginning of the interview anyway, so as long as you don't say something stupid like "I want to be rich" then it doesn't matter too much what you say!

    I hope that helps! Let me know how your interview goes :)

  5. Thanks PSD - thats very helpful thank you. That was the angle that I was going for as well (seems the safest choice!) and hopefully I can bring in some other points as well. I have the interview this Friday, will let you know how it goes.


    The Chemist :)