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Dim ond yng Nghaerdydd

The (Not So) Preclinical Years

26 Mehefin 2014

Hi team! So… I’ve been free from exams for just under 2 weeks and I had definitely forgotten how good freedom is! I wish I could say that I have been very productive… but in reality I may or may not have been just lying in the sun, catching up on much needed sleep and meeting up with all my friends from school!

BUT! Productivity is returning tomorrow and Saturday as I’m working at the medic open days at the university.  I’m actually going to be giving presentations to all the prospective medical students out there about life as a Cardiff medical student! So this got me thinking… some people are probably going to be missing out on the open day tomorrow. So I’m going to attempt to give you a run-down of what I’ll be saying in the workshops about the now not so preclinical years at Cardiff.

The Not So Preclinical Years (1&2)

Under the brand spanking new C21 medical course at Cardiff, the preclinical teaching has been massively revamped, updated and modernised in order to deliver the kind of cutting edge medical degree programme needed to produce some of the best doctors for not just Wales, but also the rest of the UK. So how has C21 changed the way you’ll be learning?


Less lectures!

Talk to most medical students and they will tell you how their preclinical years of study were dominated by withering away in a lecture theatre 9 to 5, desperately trying to maintain some concentration and degree of consciousness while looking at the 257th slide of that day. However C21 has cut the amount of lectures we have in years one and two, and has instead replaced the vast majority of them with small group teaching. Small groups usually ran with about 30 of us in a tutorial room, with a facilitator leading us. We would be given a booklet of questions for us to answer within our groups, which applied our science teaching in clinical context and split it up into manageable chunks.

I found that small groups allowed us all to retain the information a lot better than we would have from pure lecture teaching, as with the help of others and our session leader we sought out the answers ourselves using internet resources and recommended textbooks. Also, small groups was a excellent way to make friends and get to know each other, as it was all about communication and team work in small numbers, and not about sitting silently in a lecture theatre of 300!



Learning anatomy at Cardiff has always been unique, as it is one of just a handful of UK medical schools which use student led cadaver dissection as the main teaching method for anatomy. Under the old course, students in the preclinical years typically spent two full days a week in the dissection room ploughing their way through the human anatomy. Although incredibly grateful for the opportunity, a lot of second years found the amount of dissection to be a bit too much to focus on.

So! Alas…C21 to the rescue once again, under the new course we only spend two half days in the dissecting room each week which my year found to be plenty; especially when our anatomy learning was also supplemented with lectures and prosection (looking at all ready dissected specimens). I personally really enjoyed dissection, I had a truly awesome dissection group, it is amazing how well you bond while cutting away fascia! We also found it dispelled most of our misconceptions about the human body. ‘Wait….this looks nothing like the anatomy textbook, why everything is the same colour and not spread out!?!’

Cased Based Learning

Cased based learning (CBL) is probably one of the biggest changes to the preclinical course under the new C21 programme. After Christmas in first year our teaching becomes divided into cases, which allows us to apply all that we have learnt in the first term to hypothetical patients. Each case lasts for two weeks, where our teaching is all centred on the patient. This means our lectures, practicals, small groups, clinical skills teaching and placements are all tailored to give us the required knowledge we would need in order to understand the patient’s presenting case.

With CBL, we are split up into small case groups of about 10 and we are allocated a facilitator who is present when our case group meets three times a fortnight. Within these sessions, as a group we try to identify the questions we need to answer in order to be able to appreciate the given case. For example… if the hypothetical patient presented with coughing up sputum, the kind of questions we may want to answer may include….

  1. How do we cough? What is the physiology behind it?
  2. What diseases can cause you to cough up sputum?
  3. What is sputum? How is it formed?
  4. What is the relevant anatomy and histology for this case?

As a group we would then try to answer these questions through allocated independent learning time on our timetables, and through the teaching delivered to us by the medical school. One of the biggest myths about CBL is that it is just another name for PBL. But I promise you it is really not the same! The main difference is that although we do have independent work to do (like other PBL courses); our learning is not just through unsupported independent study. We still have lots of contact time as a year group through the teaching methods mentioned above.

Case groups once again were a fantastic way to meet even more people in the year and really get to know them. Case groups were also a pretty good way to get a cake club going (which of course made the work more manageable!)

It will probably be at this point in the presentation that I would ask if any of you lovely people had any questions! So if you do, please please please don’t hesitate to leave a comment on the blog, or tweet me! I’ll try my best to give you the answers you need! Ps. To any A & AS levellers and GCSE students out there, congratulations on surviving exams and I hope you can now enjoy your freedom as much as I am!

Speak to you soon!