Planning for the future – life as a student on the MSc in Medical Education

Alex Wilson reflects on his time as a student on the MSc in Medical Education course and considers what the next year will hold.

This is my last written piece for the RCP this year. Essays and viva done, a sense of completeness, everyone’s in a better mood – it feels like being back at med school. If only I had a summer holiday too.

As the last module finished, there was a sense that this might be the last time we saw each other. There was talk of plans for the future. Some planned to head straight on into the diploma; some were happy that they had achieved what they wanted with the certificate. But there were also plenty like me – the indecisive ones – stuck juggling a desire to continue studying with planning a life, jobs, family and anything else, wondering whether next year would be best, or perhaps the year after.

June and July saw several assessment deadlines and a flurry of writing and portfolio building. The evaluative study assessment was due and, while I’d had good intentions, inevitably writing the essay was all a bit too last minute. I was really grateful that we’d been planning and talking about it for ages, and that we’d had to talk about the data we’d collected in our tutor groups. It meant that I’d actually done a lot of the hard work before it came to the writing stage.

Chatting over lunch or conversations loitering in the halls of the RCP have been some of the most enjoyable, and educational, parts of the year and this is something I’ll miss.

Alex Wilson, MSc in Medical Education student

Equally, building a portfolio for the viva should have been a long-term project, because finding all those feedback forms, reviewing lesson plans made in September (how optimistic I’d been!) and brushing up on some of the things we’d learnt all took time. The viva, although scarily named, was much more relaxed than I was expecting and was closer to a series of conversations about things in my portfolio: about what I’d done, how I’d done them and, mainly, what I learnt from them. For me at least, it was a nice way to finish my teaching fellow job. It made me reflect on how far I’d come as a medical teacher and identified things that I still needed to work on. It was also a nice opportunity to catch up with people and find out about their plans for next year. Chatting over lunch or conversations loitering in the halls of the RCP have been some of the most enjoyable, and educational, parts of the year and this is something I’ll miss. 

Like many others I’ve decided to defer the diploma for a year, as I’ll be heading back into training and I want to focus on (passing, hopefully) my specialty exams. I won’t stop teaching, although I’ll have to be more strategic about it, and some of the teaching tips and skills that I’ve picked up this year will see the test of front-line clinical work and a full rota. But, 12 months on from here, I know I’ll be excited to be back, reflecting on new experiences and keen to learn more.

Alex Wilson, MSc in Medical Education student and clinical teaching fellow at Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust

You can read more from Alex in his February 2017 blog about life on the MSc in Medical Education.

Applications for the MSc in Medical Education 2018–19 open in January 2018. For more information please contact postgraduate@rcplondon.ac.uk.