7.50am: I roll out of bed, find my matric card and stethoscope, and make coffee for myself and the flatmate.
8.50am: We arrive at the Wolfson to find one-third of our year waiting around in the cafeteria. Eventually, the doors open and we troop into a seminar room to get a pre-exam briefing. We’re asked to volunteer as patients for this morning’s exam, and I agree to have my limbs examined in the session after mine. At one point, the briefing turns to discussion of the procedure for the real OSCE, which does nothing for my nerves.
9.45am: The first group are sent upstairs, and the rest of us go to seek caffeine. Having established that we’ll have to do some kind of examination on a limb, we spend an inordinately long time trying to decide whether it will be muscoloskeletal or neurological. We hope for neurological, as none of us can remember how to do GALS properly.
10.10am: We proceed up to clinical skills and spend a long, long time waiting for the first group to finish. I find my partner and, by a coin toss that I lose, we decide which of us will be going first.
10.35am: *PHWEET* My station is a cardiovascular examination. I introduce myself, gain consent, and wash my hands. I’m instructed to miss out the examination of the hands, which throws me off my rhythm so that I end up missing out the face, too. The examiner is nice and tells me what I’ve done wrong, and I go back. I suppose this is the point of a mock.
10.41am: *PHWEET* I watch my partner do a musculoskeletal examination of the upper limb, grateful that I’m not doing this station.
10.47am: *PHWEET* I’m asked to take a history from a patient with chest pain. This is the first time I’ve really done a communication skills station under exam conditions — the mock OSCE in first year, which absolutely nobody took seriously, does not count. I’m very aware that I do not have all the time in the world, and I feel as though I’m rushing through the history. I summarise and finish with about fifteen seconds to spare, and I leave with my mark sheet. I’ve missed a couple of simple things, but I got most of the points and the patient has scored his impression of me highly.
10.53am: *PHWEET* My partner gets the urinalysis station. It’s a bit weird, we haven’t really been taught how to do this in VS but it’s so quick that there’s plenty of time to read the instructions on the dipstick container!
10.59am: *PHWEET* It’s my turn again and I’m confronted with a plastic bum. I introduce myself and ask it for consent, and then I find gloves. I distinctly remember the time in first year when I was an examiner for this station at the third year mock OSCE and one of the students forgot her gloves. So far as I can tell, I do everything right but I can’t find the prostate.
11.05am: *PHWEET* The second communication skills station, and my partner is doing it. This is a fiddly one to get all the points on — it’s about the Access to Medical Records Act, and you need to know a lot of detail and be able to give it to the patient.
11.11am: As my colleagues start leaving, I pick up the card that identifies me as Limb and head back to the musculoskeletal station. I wait around for a few minutes until someone comes in to tell me that I won’t be needed.
11.30am: I take myself and my laptop to the SL. I need to make a dent in this bloody coursework.
1.50pm: I’m finally in the essay writing zone and I’ve managed to complete one of the questions, but I have to abandon it for two hours and run across the street to a two-hour lab on digestion. The lab is quite dull and involves a lot of pipettes, and I end up having an argument with one of the demonstrators about the correct way to put a cuvette into a spectrophotometer. I don’t often get all I Was A Biomed on people, but when they’re doing it wrong…
4.15pm: After stopping to make myself a cup of tea, I head back into the SL and plough on with the coursework. The last piece didn’t get finished until 3am on the due date, and I’d prefer not to do that again. I complete a second question in reasonable time and I’m hopeful that I’ll get at least one more done before I go home.
6pm: In the whole of the universe, there does not seem to be any information on the third question.
8.20pm: I’ve gone through PubMed like an obsessive person on crack and I’ve looked the topic up in the index of every book in the SL that looks as thought it could be remotely relevant, and I have had no luck. I decide to give up and head home, where hopefully my flatmate will have done this question and I can at least ask her which books she’s used for it.
8.22pm: As I’m shutting down the computer, I find the answer to the third question in an article that I’ve had open on my desktop this whole time. I manage not to scream, but it’s close. I think about staying until it’s done, but that lasts for about two seconds. I’m so tired that my eyes feel like they’re about to fall out of my brain and I want something to eat.
8.30pm: There is momentary terror when my swipe card fails to open the doors, and I wonder whether I’m going to be locked in the building all night. Before it has a chance to develop into full-blown panic, someone else leaves and I’m able to get out. Note to self: ask security why my swipe card doesn’t work.
9.05pm: I arrive home and make dinner.
9.40pm: Back to work. I’m painfully aware that this has now been a thirteen hour day, but deadlines are deadlines. The question that I want to finish has a word limit of 150 words and is quite straightforward now that I’ve found the information, so it doesn’t take too long.
10.35pm: The question is finished, and, although the coursework is by no means done, I feel as though I’ve made enough progress that I can pack it in for the night.