Fitness to Practice

Fitness to practice is something that nearly every medical student will worry about at some point. It’s true that medical students do need to be a little more careful than other students, and you wont get away with some things, but fitness to practice is nothing to worry about. Firstly, you can party all night, drink as often as you like (as long as you’re not drunk for lectures or placements obviously!), you can have political views, religious opinions and can even be politically incorrect. Dress as you want outside of professional hours (this includes the time you spend in medical school) and just be a normal citizen.


During your time spent in medical school, at lectures, seminars and placements, you need to be considered as fit to practice, all this means is that you are responsible and competent in what you do, and your patients see you as a professional, trustworthy and respectful person. If you follow the GMC’s principles of good practice, you’ll be fine.  Becoming a doctor isn’t an easy option, so obviously you don’t want to throw away all of your hard work by being irresponsible.


In the principles of good practice, things that are mentioned include practising within your limits of competence, recording you work clearly, protecting patients and colleagues, effective communication within the team and with patients and contribution to the continuity and coordination of care. Finally, doctors must show respect for patients, and must treat everyone fairly and equally, acting with honesty and integrity.


What this means is that you wont get away with a public order offence, even a petty one. You have to live up to an ethical and professional standard, which other students don’t have to worry about. Keep out of trouble with the law, and generally you’ll be fine. Be careful to not be seen as showing any prejudices, don’t dress up as a Nazi for a Halloween party, that sort of thing. Don’t be rude or unprofessional, attend every single clinical placement unless you have a very good reason not to, turn up in smart-casual wear at the very least, and be honest.


Don’t ever lie to a patient, or break patient confidentiality rules. Patients need to be able to trust you, and some already aren’t the biggest fans of junior doctors! You can find out more about junior doctors and patients here. If you’re not supposed to do something, then don’t do it! Rules are rules, and you wouldn’t want to risk not being accepted as fit to practice. Out of professional hours, you’re free to do whatever you want that isn’t illegal, just be wary of having a severe hangover at a 9am lecture or clinical placement.


One other misconception surrounding the fitness to practice rules are that you’re not allowed to get a speeding ticket/parking fine/red light jumping ticket. This isn’t true; what you’re not allowed to do is make it a regular occurrence. One ticket is fine, two is sometimes acceptable, but any more and you’re in trouble. It shows a lack of conforming to the law, an unwillingness to take advice and generally is a mark down on you. If you do get one, which thousands of people do, don’t worry. Once you have one, however, make sure you’re extra careful not to rack them up.


Your fitness to practice is likely to be questioned if you have harmed patients or put them at risk of harm, shown deliberate recklessness or disregard of clinical responsibilities, shown signs of a drug or alcohol addiction, abused a patient’s trust or fundamental rights or if you have behaved dishonestly, fraudulently or deliberately harmed or mislead others. (Taken from the GMC fitness to practice document).

Medical Student Syndrome

Being a medical student is hard work, and it takes a lot of hard work to get there. We understand that it’s a stressful thing to be doing, and you learn about hundreds of different diseases, illnesses and conditions that people can be suffering from. One thing which is completely unique to those studying medicine, and is actually a result of the intensity of study, is medical student syndrome.


A well documented psychological condition, medical student syndrome is a condition reported by those who study medicine, and who perceive themselves to have an illness that they are studying. Sometimes referred to as a type of hypochondria (an excessive worry about having a serious illness), and sometimes referred to as nosophobia (an irrational fear of contracting a disease), it’s common for medical students to think that they have the frightening diseases that pop up in their text books.


The extensive knowledge of symptoms of illness and disease means that medical students can recognise a pain not only as a pain, but a symptom of something far more serious. This can get even worse when students start working in hospitals during their foundation years (which you can find out more about here); this is when students actually see real people with these conditions, they talk to them and discuss how they feel, their symptoms and can watch an improvement or a deterioration in health.


In a similar way, medical students are likely to think that a patient has a far more serious and unusual problem than they really do. If a list of symptoms points to something common and something rare, the medical student is more likely to test for the more unusual illness. It’s worth remembering that common conditions are common for a reason – lots of people have them. Most of the time, (although obviously not always) the patient will be suffering from the more common condition.


The reason that medical students often think that they could be suffering from a disease is that they do not often have the healthiest lifestyles. You’re a student, you eat rubbish food, drink Red Bull to get you through assignments, lose sleep and fill your head with the most horrible of diseases that happen to undeserving, unsuspecting people. If you have a particularly bad hangover, or a migraine or a cold, it’s easy to have an irrational response to it with so much knowledge of what could, but probably wont, happen. Medical students know for the first time, the exact location of the appendix; suddenly an innocent stomach cramp comes along and you’re worried that your appendix is about to burst.


Between 70% – 80% of medical students report experiencing medical student syndrome at some point during their studies. They’re also far more likely to diagnose a family member or a friend with impending doom. However, many people in the general public have been attempting to self-diagnose since the rise of the internet and symptom checkers, often resulting in the same, irrational response. Medical student syndrome is something that you should be aware of, but it won’t last forever, and the more conscious you are of it, the more likely you are to have rational thoughts when you are unwell.

Biomedical Science

Medipathways offer a unique 2 year degree in Biomedical Science; it’s hard work but it offers a highly regarded qualification in less time than at other universities.


Biomedical scientists are very important in UK hospitals; they are relied on by operating theatres and A&E departments, as well as used to help treat patients across wards. You would usually specialise in one of these areas; infection sciences, blood sciences or cellular sciences. Work includes testing for emergency blood transfusions and testing samples from patients for a range of medical conditions, as well as screening for diseases and monitoring the effects of medication.


The work of a biomedical scientist is practical, analytical and varied, you’ll be working with computers and hi-tech equipment every day, and would have to be able to use a wide range of complex modern techniques. Necessary skills include accuracy and efficiency of work, communication and the ability to work in a team. Confidence with computers and technology is a must.


In the UK, biomedical scientists are the second largest profession within the professional healthcare industry. Doctor’s decisions are often based around test results which have been generated by biomedical scientists.


With infection sciences, rapid diagnosis is essential in order to prevent the spread of any disease. Appropriate use of antibiotics and knowing which treatment is most efficient is key here. You can further specialise in medical microbiology, where you will detect diseases caused by bacteria and susceptibility to antibiotic therapy. Alternatively, you could specialise in virology; the study of viruses such as herpes, HIV and hepatitis.


In cellular science, you could be working in histopathology and study tissue samples collected from operations, biopsies and autopsies. Detecting cancer in tissue samples is one of the major parts of this specialism, and it lies at the heart of the job. Similarly, the specialism of cytology analyses tissue and fluid samples. Finally, you could decide to work in reproductive science and analyse samples to detect infertility and the causes of it.


The largest area of specialism is blood sciences. These all work together to give a diagnosis and a treatment. Clinical chemistry involves carrying out tests on kidney, liver and thyroids to find out if everything is in good working order. Transfusion science is what is most commonly used in operating theatres, as this involves ensuring that blood groups of donors and patients are compatible, and that the correct blood transfusions are made. Haematology is the study of blood to identify abnormalities within it, and can help to identify conditions such as sickle cell anaemia and malaria. Finally immunology studies the body’s immune system and its role. Allergies, tumors and even transplants are highly monitored by immunologists, and has been an essential part in the monitoring and treatment of AIDS.


Alternatively, you could complete a biomedical sciences degree and apply to medical school afterwards; it will give you fantastic background knowledge of medicine and will make your application stand out. Biomedical scientists are a necessary part of health care, and it’s not a career to ignore if you want to help people but remain in a very scientific field. Our courses will help you achieve your career goals.




Getting a Summer Job

There’s a lot of reasons why being a student is great, and one of them has to be the incredibly long summers. Many students finish their exams mid-May and then don’t have to start lectures again until the end of September – it’s a hard life! During this time, you might want to try to get a summer job and earn some money to get through the next 4 months of incredible hardship. Of course, it’s not just cash in your pocket but also great skills-building experience for your CV, and you’ll still find time to enjoy the sun and the freedom of your summer holiday. You can read our blog post about the value of work experience here.


It’s best to start looking early, many employers look for summer staff every year; more people, bigger sales and a chance to make extra money mean that you should be looking from April or May (now!) for a summer job. Write a great CV using online guides and talking to parents or lecturers, keep it under 2 pages and make sure it’s interesting.


There’s a number of websites dedicated to student jobs, alternatively look in local newspapers, ask your university career service, ask directly in shops (with a CV handy to give them) and talk to people you know. Don’t just ask your parents, put it out on Facebook that you’re looking for a job and ask friends who have jobs if there are any other vacancies where they work. You could be surprised by who might be able to help you out.


Some of the best places to work over summer receive hundreds of applicants every year – attractions such as Alton Towers often have a lot of vacancies, but you need to have a very strong CV and a great interview to get a job there. It’s also a difficult place to get to unless you live very nearby, so travel is an essential thing to consider. Music festivals also employ a lot of young people every summer to help run the events, some of these are voluntary positions but you get free entry to the festival, free meals, have fun and maybe get a chance to meet some of the celebrities, it’s even better if you get paid for it as well!


Just finished college & A levels? Why not apply for our Pre-Med course!


For a temporary office job, it’s worth applying to agencies in the months before your summer starts. They might be able to line a job up for you as soon as you finish university. The agency takes the stress out of having to search and apply for jobs, but office work isn’t for everyone. It’s a secure and stable job, and you could earn a reasonable amount of money from it.


An increasingly popular student summer job is bar work or holiday repping abroad. It’s hard work, long shifts and not a lot of money, but you get to spend your summer embracing a new culture and partying. Working abroad over summer will get you a great tan, friends for life and an unforgettable experience, if you’re up to it.


If your job hunt doesn’t go well, or you just don’t fancy any of the jobs available, why not think about being your own boss? Whether it’s cleaning cars, babysitting, gardening or online freelance work, there’s always a way to make money by yourself.



Surviving the Start of University

For most, going to university is a big change; it’s a chance to move out, live independently, make friends, learn to cook, find out how many tequilas you can physically handle and of course, study towards a degree. It’s exciting and terrifying all at once, but it could be the best years of your life. Here’s our guide to what happens when you first start university.


Moving in


First things first, get your finances sorted and open a student bank account. Take anything and everything that you might need with you, but if you’re going to be living with a shared kitchen it might be a good idea to wait until you move in before buying an entire range of kitchen things. It’s not uncommon in university halls to have 8 saucepans of exactly the same size, 15 frying pans and approximately 300 items of mix and match cutlery but no essential pizza cutter. See if you can come to an arrangement with your new flatmates, most people don’t mind you using their things as long as you wash it up afterwards. Although if you can’t promise to put things back afterwards maybe just buy your own set rather than cause arguments.


When you move in, keep your door propped open whilst you unpack. It comes across as friendly, and it will be easy to say hello to others moving in to the flat. Everyone will be nervous, so just say hello and introduce yourself. Student life will be much easier if you’re friends with the people you live with.


What happens in freshers’ week stays in freshers’ week


Once you’ve done the (sometimes difficult) goodbyes with those who helped you move, you’ve unpacked and met your flatmates, it’s time to enjoy freshers’ week. Although it’s officially for registration and learning your way around the university, freshers’ week is for socialising. You might want to socialise in the typical student way with a combination of clubs, parties, shots, socials and more shots, or you might prefer to join in with daytime activities and welcome fairs. You can try to do both, but if you’re out until 3am every night it’s unlikely you’re going to feel fit for the rugby team try outs early the next morning. Freshers’ fair is where all the student societies and associations give you free stuff and try to encourage you to join, so that can be fun too. As long as you attend the important parts you’ll be fine, even if you turn up in a dehydrated, red eyed, alcohol-breath state.


If you don’t drink, there’s normally alcohol-free evening events, daytime activities, student societies and a friendly café where you can sit and chat over a hot drink and a cake. Some students worry that their lifestyle choices will have them excluded from regular university life, but it wont!


Freshers’ flu affects almost every student in one way or another. With so many people from different parts of the country all meeting each other, there’s a fair chance you’re going to catch something you’ve not been exposed to before. With the added chill that usually creeps in every September and a week or two of alcohol-induced comas, it’s no wonder so many students fall ill in the first few weeks of university. Without a parent around to bring you chicken noodle soup and paracetamol, you’re going to have to face this one on your own. Your parents might call it ‘character building’ when you phone them to tell them you feel like you’re dying, which wont make you feel any better at all.


I have to study now?!


After the madness of freshers’ week, you’ll have to actually start going to lectures and studying. University is tough, so make friends, don’t blow your entire student loan in the first fortnight and remember that it’s okay to miss home. Have a good time, but get your work done too!

Want to go to medical school? Have a look at our pre-med course to help you get there.

Junior Doctors and Patients

Medical students have a tough time getting through their studies, it can feel like you’re training forever, and in some ways, you are. One of the key stages of becoming a doctor or specialist physician is the two years you’ll spend as a junior doctor (foundation doctor). In this time you will see a huge variety of patients, from the simple to the complex, those who have been in hospital many times and those who have never been before, it’s a huge learning experience.


Find out about becoming a junior doctor in our blog post.


One type of patient you’re likely to come across is one who isn’t happy about being treated by a junior doctor. As someone seemingly inexperienced, some patients don’t feel like they’re in the most capable hands, often overestimating the involvement that you will have in their care. Doctors need to be trained and patients need to be treated, but why do people dislike being treated by a junior doctor?


A junior doctor is usually much less confident in making a diagnosis than a doctor who has been practising for years, and unless they are absolutely certain they can and will ask a senior. Junior doctors are often given the tasks of talking to the patient to find out their history, do the right checks and make sure they’re comfortable. A patient will get to spend more time talking to a doctor in training, who will assess their needs.


Students are often more connected to their patients than other doctors, as they have to learn about who they’re treating and about patient-doctor interactions. You’re not just learning about the diagnosis, you’re learning about how to actually be a doctor. Give the time to your patients and listen to any questions that they have, be friendly and smile a lot, you’re there to make them feel better, not just regarding treating their illness, but making them feel safe and looked after.


Be confident, or if you’re not confident, make sure you come across that you are. Introduce yourself to the patient, explain what you’re going to be doing and your role in their care. Ask simple, friendly questions to help them relax, even if it’s just a ‘how are you?’, listen to their response and see if there’s anything you can do to make them more comfortable. It doesn’t matter how many questions you ask (as long as you don’t ask the same ones over and over again!), just try to get the fullest picture that you can.


If you’re working with children, you have the tricky task of making the child not be scared of you or the hospital, whilst explaining to worried parents what’s wrong with their son or daughter in the most realistic way you can. Show them (if they’re not bed-bound) the play room and avoid using scary words or phrases that they don’t understand. Parents want the best for their children, and they can be difficult to deal whilst you’re training.


Being a junior doctor is something that every doctor has to go through, some patients can be difficult, especially when you’re not fully qualified. Remember though, that most patients are just happy to be being looked after! Times of illness are stressful, and through your career you’ll need to be as understanding as possible.

Being a Junior Doctor

You’ve spent maybe 19 years in education, starting from infant school, through junior and secondary, completed A levels and a 5 year medical degree. It’s been hours and hours of voluntary work experience, years of study, exams and focus. It’s all been hard work, but you’ve done it all and completed an undergraduate medical course; you can now become a junior doctor.

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Student Budgeting

As a student, it’s likely that at some point you’re going to be completely, utterly broke if you don’t plan your money accordingly. Unfortunately, students are notoriously bad at managing their money effectively, often only starting to budget when they’re down to approximately twenty-seven pence a day to live on (luckily, Asda sell smart-price noodles for 6p).


Before you find yourself contemplating taking food out of the bin or worse, stealing from a housemate, it’s a good idea to to plan your money early. Work out what money you have coming in (maintenance loan, grant, bursaries, part-time job, parents), take out your rent and one off costs such as course books and a laptop and divide the amount you have left by the number of weeks until your next loan payment. What you’re left with is your weekly budget.

Read our blog post about what student life in London is like!

Food is obviously a big expense, but it can be done cheaply. Go to markets for fruit and veg, Poundland for snacks and soft drinks and a budget supermarket such as Lidl or Aldi for everything else. For alcohol, you’ll quickly learn that buying the cheapest bottle of something doesn’t make that much of a difference to your night. Say goodbye to Smirnoff and Red Bull and hello to Tesco’s own vodka and N-Gine Blue for 25p a can. Drink at home before you go out to avoid spending lots in expensive pubs and clubs.


To save on travel, think about getting a second hand bike. It’s often quicker and cheaper than public transport, and will help you keep fit in the process. Obviously this requires a level of motivation so it’s not for everyone. If the bus or train is cheap and you can squeeze it into your budget then it’s easy to insist that you’ll cycle tomorrow, or maybe the day afterwards. Different cities have very different travel costs; although it’s usually cheaper in a big city, you’re far more likely to sit in traffic as all the pedestrians and cyclists go past you.


Takeaways can be done on the cheap too, independent pizza shops normally have a really good family deal, and if you fancy a curry think about cooking your own rice. Do lots of it and cut down on the amount of dishes you need to order. Of course, the tried and tested best way to have a takeaway is to order it between a group of you and split the cost.



Studying Abroad

Approximately 3 million students study away from their home country around the world. The UK is typically seen as a place where international students come to, not a place where local students move away from. However, there has been an increase in recent years of UK students going abroad to study, and our courses can help you to do the same.


The real benefit to studying abroad is experiencing a whole new culture that you can immerse yourself in. Living in a new country can be a life changing experience, you’ll meet new people, try new foods and live a whole new way of life. Once you start working, chances to go abroad on holiday are limited, and you wont be able to spend a long period of time experiencing a new culture like you can as a student. It’s not uncommon for international students studying in Europe to country-hop during holidays and weekends.


To cope on your own whilst studying abroad is not an easy thing to do, you have to be able to look after yourself entirely. To an employer, seeing that you have spent a number of years studying abroad is impressive. You can show that you’ve spent time standing on your own two feet, that you’re resourceful, responsible and able to deal with different situations that you haven’t faced before.


A major reason so many students are now studying abroad is because of the lack of spaces at UK universities. Every year thousands of students with good A level grades miss out on a place at their desired university, and some feel that they’d be better off studying abroad. Since the maximum tuition fees were increased to £9,000 a year in the UK, it could now be cheaper to study abroad. One of the universities we work with in Slovakia charge $9,000 (£7672) per year to study on their Medical course.


At Medipathways we work with universities in Spain, Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Jamaica and the British Cayman Islands. Just think, whilst your friends are studying at a rainy English university, you could be studying on the beach in the Caribbean islands! Graduates who have completed a medical or dental course in Europe usually don’t come across any difficulties registering as a doctor in the UK or the rest of Europe. However, graduates of medical schools outside of Europe are required to pass the PLAB examination (Professional and Linguistic Assessments Board) administered by the GMC, which allows students to begin training at an NHS hospital.

Visit our website for students thinking about studying abroad!



Want to be a vet?

Similarly to medical or dental careers, becoming a vet is not easy. If you’re hard working, determined and love animals it might just be the right career choice for you. There are currently only eight universities that offer veterinary medicine in the UK, requiring A level grades of AAB as a minimum (although Cambridge and Bristol require A*AA in their current prospectuses), with A levels in biology and chemistry being essential. It is a 5 year course, or 6 at Cambridge, and usually requires you to sit the Biomedical Admissions Test (BMAT). If you think that you’re not going to quite get the grades you need, why not consider our Pre-Med course? It can only improve your chances of getting a place on a veterinary science course.


As a vet it will be your job to help prevent disease, treat animals and deal with emergencies. You might work in a private or charity veterinary clinic, a zoo, in the army, for the government or in a research establishment. Wherever you go, maintaining high standards of animal welfare will be your key priority. Daily tasks include seeing booked appointments, vaccinating animals against diseases or treating infections such as fleas or worms, regularly checking on animals that have been hospitalised and doing operations including neutering, wound repairing or dental work.


To be a vet, you’ll need to have a genuine concern for animals and their welfare, you also need to be confident handling different animals. An important skill you’ll need is communication; although it’s animals that you treat most of them have owners, and pets are often important members of families. You’ll need to be able to tell the owners what’s wrong with their pet, what you can do about it, any implications and how much it’s going to cost them. Don’t forget you wont always be delivering good news, you’ll need to demonstrate empathy and patience and help people deal with their pet being unwell.


Work experience is essential for all degrees that require some sort of care, and veterinary science is no different. You might have excellent grades in the right subjects but universities wont even look at you if you have no work experience. The best way to get experience is to contact various places that keep and look after animals, be it vet practises, farms, stables, rehoming centres or even pet shops. Companion Care Vets offer work experience to students in full time education in their 90 surgeries across the UK, so find your nearest one and contact them! Having your own pets helps too, but you’ll need a variety of placements that you can comfortably talk about in interviews and explain what you’ve learned from them, be aware that most of the placements will be on a voluntary basis. Explain to the places you contact that you’re applying to vet school, be polite and don’t complain when you’re asked to muck out stables; it all gives you great experience and a helping hand towards studying veterinary science.