And another year of medical school done!!! 😉
In many ways, the third year was much better than the previous years. Overall, things were finally starting to look up.
In Cambridge, the third year of the graduate course (corresponding to the 5th/penultimate year of the standard course) consists of four specialty rotations of 8 weeks length, interspersed with a week of lectures in-between placements (For more info, see here). In addition, one studies pathology “on the side” in preparation for three big final path exams.
Third year starts early in August when one still feels quite tired from the marathon that is the end of 2nd year: a double whammy of pre-clinical finals followed by clinical exams four weeks later, corresponding to the finals of clinical year 1 on the standard course. Hardly ever have I felt more tired and out of energy/morale than during this time, and the three weeks of holidays which followed did not really allow one to recover fully…
However, starting the first specialty rotation (in my case paediatrics in Ipswich) was accompanied by a new pleasant feeling: no longer did we have to juggle pre-clinical and clinical work, we could finally focus on the clinical side only. What a huge lift for morale! Even though we still had to somehow incorporate pathology into the mix of revision, it was at least possible to match its content to the specialties, as the subjects are a lot more connected.
Furthermore, having just completed the pre-clinical part of the course, it could finally serve as a starting point for tackling the clinical syllabus. All of a sudden, clinical reading and ward-experience made a lot more sense! (As opposed to previously, when one had to learn about abdominal diseases without much knowledge of the human abdomen!). For me, this represented another lift in spirits. Also, it made it a lot more obvious how difficult and even pointless the process of grasping clinical medicine had been previously lacking a proper foundation. What used to be an uphill battle now finally felt easier… what a relief.
Another pro of the third year was that the teaching of the specialties (at least those that everyone experiences in the same hospitals – Addenbrooke’s and Papworth) is relatively established and well organised. And closeby! Compared to the clinical lectures during the first two years of the course, this felt like a huge improvement. Despite some remaining flaws, the teaching was finally useful.
Finally, onto the subject of pathology. The Cambridge syllabus is absolutely enormous and at the beginning of the year, it certainly felt like a massive challenge (as described here). However, even in the early stages of third year when I was still more scared than confident about tackling this subject, I knew that for the first time, this syllabus represented some kind of organised approach to medicine. The overall content definitely covers most areas a junior doctor should know about. Furthermore, the specific details of each disease to be studied for this subject, i.e. definition, cause, pathogenesis, investigations, clinical features etc. pretty much only excluded the treatment of the disease, which is left for the final year (for more info, see here). Working through the syllabus, as painful and longwinded as it may have been at times, was definitely a good foundation to proceed to the final year of the course.
In summary, third year was a big improvement compared to previous years. Before, when it came to clinical medicine, I had felt completely lost in the huge grounds to be covered. Now, for the first time, I felt as if I had at least heard of everything once and can now build on that knowledge in the final year. Yay!