Added pressure came from our first ever OSCEs scheduled just before the written exams. Apparently, the key to success was to get into the lab and practice procedures and practice and practice some more. So we did. Again and again we took medical histories from each other using actual patient scenarios, timing ourselves and giving each other feedback. We watched each other repeatedly talk to and inject a rubber arm. We measured each others’ blood pressures countless times and sutured bits of foam together until we thought we could do it in our sleep. With all this practice, I was quietly confident about the OSCEs.
In the actual exam, we moved between “stations” that consisted of a screened off cubicle inside of which was an examiner squeezed in with a “patient” and an empty chair for candidates. Knee touching cosiness. Sometimes, there was just an examiner with a mannequin or a rubber arm. Sometimes there was nobody, just a bone or a microscope or a set of photos to keep an answer sheet company. When a bell rang we moved to the next station.
Despite the practice, I still made many silly mistakes, such as: forgetting patients’ names straight after they’d told me – at which point they soon become sirs and madams. I also failed to anticipate a very large patient with very big (and hairy) arms with which I had to try to get a blood pressure, thinking the cuff was big enough but hearing the velcro undoing itself, ripping open with every squeeze of the sphyg. I’m sure the patient was chosen by the school due to their pulse – or lack of it.
Afterwards I replayed things I should/shouldn’t have said and done but it was too late. Written exams were just around the corner and needed attention.
So exams came and went. I told myself I didn’t care about the mark, I’d be grateful just to pass. Hope for the best and prepare for the worst. Failing one exam would mean summer revision preparing for a re-sit but would at least be recoverable. Resitting two exams was still manageable although stressful but three or more fails didn’t bear thinking about.
Even classmates who normally shrug exams off with confidence were worried that they might have failed at least one. Perhaps there was more to lose – at least that’s how I felt.
Friends and family all thought I was worrying too much. “Oh, you’ll be fine” they said “You always say you might have failed and yet you always do well” but they didn’t seem to understand – these might really be the exams I fail and they thought it was a case of me crying wolf again.
When the results were released my eyes couldn’t scan the row on the page quickly enough. Ignoring the scores, I just concentrated on whether each column said pass or fail: “Pass” “Pass” “Pass” “Pass”…. each time I reached the next column the intensity grew – until I’d got to the end where the words read:
“Proceed to 3rd year”