By: Stevikha Foster (Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery (MBBS) at UWI Mona Campus in Jamaica. Currently in her 4th year of study
Third year, semester one aided in the completion of the preclinical subjects. Sadly, this was the semester where the faculty decided to add mid semester exams to the schedule for all preclinical subjects and we were all afraid and upset. This was because we were already under pressure and this added more stress. One of the giant courses for semester 1 was Clinical Hematology. I listened to the advice of the senior students after learning the hard part was on the mid semester exam and read mainly from the textbook for the final exam.
At the end of semester 1, we were notified by the faculty that semester 2 would be in person and I was required to be in Jamaica in a month. Although I was happy to continue my medical school in person, I was sad that I had to leave home with all my friends and family again. However, before leaving I made sure to meet up with my friends one last time for my 21st birthday party.
On my return to Jamaica and the beginning of my 2nd semester, I began my 3 junior clinical clerkship or rotation sadly separated from one of my study buddies. The class was divided into name groups for ease and since her name was higher in the alphabet than mine, we were separated.
The rotations and the order in which I did them were aspects of Family medicine, Junior surgery and Junior medicine. On these clinic rotations, I met the most interesting and fun set of people “the Fs”. This was what I called us since all of our last names started with an F. I was mostly at home having online classes however, I went to school for History taking practice, well Baby clinic, one ward rounds and interview practice not forgetting to mention visits to a private doctors’ office.
This visit took me over to Portmore where we got our first taste of clinical medicine. I was able to give my first intramuscular medication. However, the pediatric segment proved to be quite challenging while community health was mostly simple. At the end of this rotation, we sat four exams, two for each segment of the rotation.
My second rotation, junior surgery was my favorite and I was very excited however my excitement was cut short when I got covid and had to stay home for 2 weeks. As a result, I missed my urology subspecialty. Although I a bit disappointed, I used the time in quarantine to start reading the topics which I didn’t know. This extra reading did help me to flourish during ward round with the consultants.
On my return to school, I was placed on the cardiothoracic surgery firm at University Hospital of the West Indies where I was rudely awakened. Due to my patient being the first one on ward rounds each morning, I was plagued by the consultant every morning with the question “whose patient is this” followed by “present your patient“. Since I had no clinical experience, after “presenting my patient” poorly of course, the chief resident would look stressed with his thumb and index finger on his forehead seemingly contemplating life. This segment of the rotation helped me develop my clinical segment. By the final 6 weeks of the rotation when I did general surgery, I was able to wow the residents and consultants with the knowledge I had from my covid isolation and cardiothoracic surgery. Thankfully, the consultants at Kingston Public Hospital were very patient and assisted me well.
When the exam came around, I was able to breeze through the multiple choice. However, the Objective Structured Clinical Examination (OSCE) was quite interesting. I was very nervous but was able to answer the questions asked by the consultant. Our OSCE comprised of a series of pictures including x-rays, equipment, sutures or a particular pathology and we had to answer questions from the consultant.
After just a weekend break, I began junior medicine where the students with our surnames beginning with the letter “F” met up again and we were placed at KPH firm 1. There was a lot to learn in the hardest junior clerkship. The practical skills including taking blood, setting up IVs, physical exams and i even got the opportunity to do a paracentesis which is removing fluid from a patient with fluid buildup in the abdomen. After completing the first 6 weeks, we were rotated to University Hospital where we were placed on the neurology firm where we learnt the majority of our theory. At the end, I was very good at neurology and locating lesions along the nervous system.
During the semester, to prepare for my practical exam, I found myself practicing my physical examinations on my friends from home. By the grace of God, I received help from a very kind and genuine final year medical student who guided me through these examinations and help me understand what to expect.
At the end of the medicine rotation I had a multiple-choice exam which I found quite challenging and an OSCE which is the practical component. Once again, I was very nervous. In this segment I had to perform 3 physical exams in the presence of a consultant. The physical exams were cardiovascular, sensory and abdominal exams. I was extremely nervous in my first exam which was cardiovascular exam that I forgot to listen to the heart sounds and as a result reported that the patient was healthy which luckily, he was.
The second examination, I only had one diagnosis in mind however the doctor asked for others and in a nervous state I said the first thing that came to mind. By the final exam, which was an abdominal examination, I was more comfortable and performed much better.
Throughout med school I am still learning valuable hacks to help me save time so I can complete the pile of work and studies given to me. Some of these are meal prep, timetables and scheduling.
In my meal prep, I would cook breakfast, lunch and dinner once a week and put them in bowls. The meals planned for the end of the week would go into the freezer to preserve freshness. When I first got to Jamaica, I use to shop once a month for groceries but as of recently, I started shopping for 3 months. To facilitate this, I would cut, package and freeze my fresh vegetables and make small smoothie packages for easy use. I would use timetables to schedule all the topics to ensure they were completed before exams. To aid smooth running of my weeks at school, all ironing would be done at the end of each week so that there would always be something to wear to avoid rushing in the morning.
Sadly, on commencement of med school my already lacking social life took a major hit and I unconsciously began to self-isolate to complete all my daily tasks. Thanks to my friends from home and my colleagues, who almost always literally force me to go out or just simply come and visit me in my room i was able to stay socially involved.
However, after my experience thus far, it still seems like 4th year came extremely quickly. Nevertheless, I’m ready to conquer again using the study and survival skills I have adopted and practiced throughout the first three years. I can truly say throughout my life God has kept me and I owe all gratitude to him and I am thankful for the support of my parents and loved ones.
Intereseted in taking this course. Here’s their website for more information. Bachelor in Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery (MBBS)
Here’s are tips from a past student of this course Doctor Tiffanie Skerritt on how to live in Jamaica. Friends, shopping, cooking, etc.
Planning to study in the UK, our website has great tips on budgeting, mental health resources, masters and other topics.