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Life as a... · June 07, 2019

Life as a UCLan Medicine Student

I am a fourth-year medical student at the University of Central Lancashire. I am one of the first cohorts of medical students at the University and I’m extremely happy to share my exciting experience here.Situated in the North-West of England in the city of Preston (close to Winterfell), it’s 45 minutes away from Manchester and Liverpool. 

There is another campus in Burnley, which is 30 minutes from Preston, which is for the 3rd, 4th and future 5th year students. 


This blog is to show you what it’s like being a medical student at UCLan, and to go through a day in my life as a medical student.   

UCLan medicine course structure

UCLan offers a five-year medicine course, taught in English, similar to ones in different universities around the UK. The first two years focus on basic medical sciences such as anatomy, physiology, pharmacology etc., interspersed with a few clinical placements. There is a good amount of clinical skills and communication skills teaching present as well, with an element of PBL too. However, the bulk of your learning is through lectures and practical sessions in the anatomy lab. There are no pro-sections or dissections, but there are fabulous 3D models which really bring the human body in perspective. 

The next two years are clinical practice oriented and represent the most exciting years of your medical school. There are various placements to go through such as orthopaedics (my favourite one yet), cardiology, neurology (some cool Derek Shepherd stuff), paediatrics etc., with an emphasis on clinical and communication skills, diagnosis and management. You also have campus days with flipped classroom teaching, where you prepare a topic (like diabetes), and teach the class, with input from the Endocrinology consultant. You’re also always brushing up on clinical skills teaching too.

Recently, UCLan has taken up students in their initiative to expand the course to UK widening participation students. This is a great move, providing access to top-quality medical education to those with issues funding for tuition fees. 


What to expect at UCLan Medical School

Once you’ve received that A in Chemistry and done well in other science subjects like Biology, you can rest assured that you’ve done the hardest bit. I always reiterate the fact that getting into medical school is much more difficult than going through it.At UCLan, the experience gets even easier. Here, you are considered a valuable member of the course. Each medical student has a say in the working of the medical school, and the school is constantly asking, receiving and working on feedback, to make improvements to the course.

Since this is a fairly new medical school and it is still not accredited by the General Medical Council, the medical school is very willing to listen to what the students have to say, and change things for the better (Interesting point – the school is subject to GMC quality assurance every 6 months, and they meet with us too to ensure students’ needs and requests are met). 

Most importantly, the medical school has a limited number of students, which is great for the students. It’s a healthy teacher to student ratio with supportive small group teachings to facilitate learning. The teaching staff actually know your name and you have an encouraging network around you.

Even during hospital placements, the staff are welcoming and very happy to have you. This is because, they feel a sense of pride in us, as we are their own medical students, and not from another far-off university. They are all extremely supportive and help you through each turn.  

What’s it like to be Year 4 Student?

As the first cohort of students at the school of medicine, we have observed a lot of changes at the school. This has ranged from changing lecture timings due to transport inconvenience (starting lecture 15 mins late, so that the students taking the train reaching at 9am can easily make it) or teachings at hospital placement (hiring support staff at hospital to facilitate our learning needs). They are extremely flexible with making-up time on both campus and hospital teaching. As the only seniors in our medical school, we are extremely supportive and mentor our juniors as we are such a small community of students and consider it vital to stick together. It’s a great atmosphere to bond with colleagues, make friends and learn in.  

A day in my life…

Generally, our week consists of two days in hospital, one day in GP placement and another in campus. We have a day to cater for self-directed learning on Friday (or as I like to call it, an extended weekend). There is a huge focus on primary care education to educate the medical students about the importance, usage and safeguarding features of primary care. 

I’m about to take you through my typical day on placement in hospital.Promptly waking up Monday morning at 7:45 am is probably the most difficult thing for me (not a morning person). I’m currently in my Paediatrics placement, which luckily starts at 9 am (Obstetrics and Gynaecology placements start at 7.30 and are 45 mins. away from where I live, which basically means getting up at 6. Yikes!) 

It’s a four-week rotation, which means I get eight days in the hospital going through the wards, clinics and outpatient assessment units. Today, I’m in the ward for the morning and the afternoon till 5pm. I have an evening shift till 9 pm after that, which will be in the outpatient assessment unit (there are usually two evening shifts and a weekend shift in paediatrics!). 

The hospital in Blackburn is not too far from my place as I live quite close to it. There is another hospital site in Burnley which is only a half-hour free bus ride from the hospital in Blackburn. Our placements are usually split solely between these two sites. From 9 am till about 9:30, I’m in the morning handover room where the night team inform the consultants on the ward about the in-patients, new admissions and outlying tasks. There are core trainees, foundation doctors and nurses present too. 

From there, I stick to one of the consultants and go along with them on the ward round. Here, they review each in-patient, and assess them. They are all extremely happy to teach and go through the cases with me. 

Tip number one: Make yourself useful! Ask questions, offer to write in the notes and even examine patients during the ward round.

After they’ve seen the patients, the consultants gather round and discuss each patient and their fitness to go home. The junior doctors make note of this and prepare discharge summaries. They also discuss those that need to stay longer, and if any investigations are needed. The nurses and the doctors write up their own specific jobs in their job books and work on them through the afternoon. 

Tip number two: Again, make yourself useful! Offer to write up discharge summaries with the help of the junior doctor. This is really useful as it will help you in the future when you find yourself writing one up as a junior doctor.

As a medical student, the afternoon in the ward is for you to speak to and examine patients who you thought were interesting and relevant to your learning needs during the morning ward round. I usually go for a break, come back and take 2 to 3 histories, with full examinations. I was able to see a patient with a metabolic disorder (terrible at remembering the different clinical features and management options).  

Tip number three: Whenever I can’t remember the basics about a medical condition, I try and see a patient suffering from that. This helps consolidate my knowledge and I actually remember more from these encounters. Remember, you learn a lot more talking to a patient, than seeing it in a book.

I was also able to examine the patient and look out for any clinical signs. All of this really helps me practice both my clinical and communication skills (got my OSCEs coming up!).

Tip number four: An OSCE is a clinical exam which is set up exactly like an MMI circuit. It’s great to get practice on the wards in order to get slick at clinical examinations. Leaving it till the end only makes it more difficult and harder to remember.

I usually go and present my cases to one of the junior doctors or core trainees. This helps me get some feedback for me to work on to improve my skills. I’m also supposed to complete a few placement-based assessments which is called a Mini-CEX. So, I get these signed off as well.  

4 pm rolls around, and usually the consultants are back on the ward. Normally, there is some teaching in the handover room organised by the core trainees for the junior doctors, consultants and medical students. It’s a great opportunity to learn about recent research and newly published papers which have changed the way we look at diagnosis and management. This lasts for about an hour and a final handover is given to the arriving evening team and to ensure all jobs for the day are completed. 

After that, I head over to the observation and assessment unit, which is like a mini A&E for children. Here, I see loads of patients in different cubicles, waiting to be seen by a doctor. I’m able to talk to these patients and examine them. I then go on to present my cases to one of the senior doctors, and then we go review them together. Either the children gets admitted to the ward or they’re kept in the unit for further assessment. Today, I was able to see eight children on my own before reviewing them with a consultant. 4 of them were admitted to the ward to be reviewed by tomorrow’s morning team.  

Tip number five: Here is your opportunity to shine! Take a good full history and examine the child properly. Usually in the Children’s Assessment Unit, no senior doctor has seen them yet, your case presentation is all they’ve got to go on before they see the child.

to skip the gym to do some reading (especially if the consultant asked you to research a particular topic for the next day in placement). But tonight, I think I deserve neither of that. Instead, I decide to take a 10-hour catnap (☺).After you’ve woken up the next day (Tuesday), its Groundhog Day. 

Write a personal statement that stands out!

To be fair, I cannot imagine myself going to university other than UCLan. The immense support system, great learning facilities and my desire to be a great doctor (Surgeon?), really keeps me going (better than caffeine). I always stress the importance of mindfulness and taking breaks to ensure personal health is not affected. Trips down to Manchester, evenings out in restaurants and keeping a hobby will not only keep you sane here, but also create a work-life balance which is necessary for effectual learning and creativity. Remember, to always get involved in societies and keep yourself busy with things you enjoy the most during your free time. 

 Also, there are a growing number of students from the physician associate studies courses and medical sciences courses which enhance your experience in both lecture rooms and hospital. Try and work with them on scientific and clinical issues as they’re a great resource to learn with. 

We hope you found this information useful  in helping you get a sneak peak into life as a UCLan Medical School Student. If you have any questions or need advice don’t hesitate to email us at


Mr Saif Akhter Ansari

Saif is a Year 4 Medical Student at University of Central Lancashire where he also also sat on their interview panels. Saif works as a content writer for theMSAG.

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