Category Archives: Thriving & Surviving

Grasp every opportunity but don’t spread yourself too thinly….

from Wikipedia (

(from Wikipedia)

A key message about thriving & surviving: grasp every opportunity presented to you during medical school. Really throw yourself into it both academically and outside of work. It’s good to get involved in, to meet people and gain experience. It will boost your confidence and skills, without a shadow of a doubt.

It’s important to do things that you enjoy outside of medicine too, there is always time – it’s not healthy nor productive to work all the time.

Medicine is a challenging career and requires a lot of hard work, but it helps to compartmentalise topics, plan ahead and prioritise your time carefully.

Key mottos:

  • “medicine is a marathon, not a sprint”,
  • “failing to plan is planning to fail”
  • “don’t spread yourself too thinly”.

Don’t be too hard on yourself, medicine is very demanding – focus on yourself. Don’t try too hard to meet others expectations – everyone works differently and you will find your own niche.

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“Keep calm and relax” – reporting on a T&S session….

This sharing session was quite cool. I still can remember wondering how am I going to survive the whole 5 years course? Worry, nervous, stress, all came at once to me at that time.

Some of the experience and tips shared by the fifth years:

  • Be yourself, try not to compare yourself to others
  • Know your own style of learning
  • Keep really good friends with you, when you stress out, you can chill with them
  • Ideally, have some non-medics friends
  • Don’t aim to far…one by one, aim for simple things that you can achieve
  • Be smart during placement. Know what you want to learn that day.

The participation from 2nd year students was impressive, and the session was really interactive. If there some more sharing session like this from the junior doctors I’ll definitely sign up for it.

Coverage provided by Tuan Tuan Zainal

Workshop Day: Highs and Lows

The day started with an inspirational talk by former Cardiff student, Dr Menna Clatworthy. She talked about why she went down the academic route and how rewarding a career in clinical medicine is.

So filled with enthusiasm I went off to my first workshop: Getting Involved in Research.
Expecting to be informed of how Cardiff University is able to help me get involved in the cutting edge of science, I left disappointed after a five minute talk. Neither of the speakers had attempted any research at Cardiff University or had thought to prepare anything for the talk.

Fortunately all hope was not lost.

The second workshop, ‘Thriving and Surviving’ was much more beneficial. The 5th Year Students had prepared a short presentation on what to do to keep sane and enjoy yourself whilst doing well. They spoke of how in 3rd Year we can create our own SSC and this is a good way to explore a research area that you would like to get involved in. This restored my enthusiasm from Dr Menna’s talk in the morning.

Overall, today’s conference experience had it’s highs and lows. I am definitely going to start thinking about areas of research I would like to get involved in and what tutors would be able to help me.

Samuel Willis

First impressions from an organiser

Two very interesting talks from Professor Phil Smith and Dr Tom Hughes started us off today. One said that he studied too hard while the other told us that he has failed is first set of major exams. Prof Smith talked about medicine being where art meets science and Dr Hughes emphasised the importance of a good story.

Good questions about authority gradients and work-life balance.

Having checked the first set of workshops, I noticed one very small room which was cramped full of students – sorry about that. Lesson one is avoid TDS 3F6 – it only has a capacity of 10 🙁

Then, I panicked and moved a Year 5 speaker which was completely unnecessary. My apologies for that too. I should trust more!

Generally, it looks good….


How Charlotte survived, and hopefully thrived, at Medical School

Nothing quite prepares you for the long slog of Medical School. No amount of keenness at school and tip top exam results will get you through. I used to joke that getting in was the hard bit, I was wrong. The hardest thing about Medical School is conjuring up the stamina needed to sit through baffling lectures, follow consultants around for 10 hours on a ward, and still have energy to retain huge volumes of symptoms, signs and curious conditions that you will probably never see.

So how do you do it? Sounds counter intuitive but you really need to get involved with as much other stuff as humanly possible. Being a lone ranger at med school just doesn’t work. You need to make up the most fabulous support network of people who, like you, know just how it feels to nod off during a dull MDT.

Societies are great for things like that, not least because they mix you with students from other years who have great advice on all aspects of medical school and also provide a familiar face on the wards. I joined medics hockey and although I never actually played a single game, it was one of the best decisions I ever made. I met amazing friends through the club in a variety of years who I know I’ll keep in touch with. Sport not your thing? Don’t worry, the Uni has a stressfully large amount of societies, so I’m sure there is at least one for everyone.

Another thing I highly recommend is ‘MedTour’ – a mystery weekend away and Medics Ski Trip. Med Tour is an opportunity to mingle with like minded medics (and the occasional physio/dentist) in a European destination filled with Christmassy sparkle. I visited Hamburg in my first year, Luxemburg in my second and I co-organised the trip in my third year when we went to Cologne. If you like Christmas markets, culture, yummy food, fancy dress and painfully long bus journeys then this is the trip for you. Ski Trip is very similar but swap the Christmas markets and culture for snowy mountains.

If by some crazy miracle none of the societies appeal to you then Cardiff itself has an amazing amount of activities and fun things to do. Maindy gym has a spin instructor lady who will scare the living daylights out of you and make your thighs tremble. Well worth it to be able to go out and enjoy the culinary delights of Cardiff guilt free! There are far too many delicious eateries in Cardiff to mention here but some of my favourites are ‘Fish at 85’ (expensive so maybe go when your parents are paying), ‘Troy’ (meat feast), and ‘Waterloo Gardens Tea House’ (tea, cake, brunch, yum!). Finally, even if you haven’t got a penny to spare, get out in the fresh air (and occasionally sun) and walk around one of the many beautiful parks and green spaces Cardiff has to offer.

Most importantly enjoy yourself! No point being a miserable stressed medical student. Having a balance of hard work and carefree happiness is vital. After all mums always say ‘all work no play makes Jack a dull boy’!

Charlotte Wyeth

Emma Schofield writes about “Thriving & Surviving”

This section should be called ‘surviving and then thriving’. You have already made the difficult transition from secondary school to university. From being the brightest sparks throughout school, into a pool of very intelligent, hard working peers. This plus a huge step-up in workload and difficulty can be a shock to the system.

The first step of medical school is to learn how to survive – figure out how you learn, what you find difficult, what your strengths and weaknesses are. Once you’ve figured this out, that’s when you can start to thrive!

Some pointers that might help you do this are:

  • Plan ahead! Find out exactly what you need to do to pass every year. Once you know that it’s easier to see the year as a ‘to-do list’that you can tick off as you pass each one.
  • Keep working! The worst times I’ve had in medical school are when I just throughly underestimate an exam…the hasty skim over the hand and foot the day before the anatomy exam, funnily enough, didn’t lead to my best mark in medical school. Although it seems like a long hard slog, keeping up with work will help in the long run, plus it helps to alleviate that last minute panic when you haven’t covered whole topics the night before the exam.
  • Realise your limits! Whether thats realising that you will never know all of medicine (it has specialties for a reason) or knowing you can’t revise for 16 hours a day. Knowing your own strengths and weaknesses are the first step to knowing how to be the best that you can be.
  • Invest! As soon as you get into clinical years, invest in a question bank website (such as BMJ onexamination or passmed). Not only does it break up the tedium of looking at text books, but it is a great way to learn. I saw a vast improvement in my marks as soon as I started practising questions.
  • Finally, remember you are in a fairly unique position, doing one of the only courses where the vast majority of the year will come out with the same mark, ‘a pass’. So do the best you can do, pass those exams, and you will still get to be a doctor at the end of it all.

All of these things will go just a little way to helping you keep your head above water. Once you have figured out how to do that, then you can start thriving! Whether that is within medical school in an academic capacity, or outside doing anything you can find thats unrelated to medicine. You could find a certain specialty you love and explore that through societies or conferences. Or, if at the end of a long day of placement and revision you just want to do sport, a society or just socialise then go ahead. You have your whole career to build up your CV, but only 5 short years of medical school.