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The practical year

I have discussed at length the structure of the medical degree at university in my previous blog posts.

Ironically, I have not talked about the last part of the course yet, which is also the one I am going through at the moment. The practical year.

After 5 years of studies and after passing the Preliminary Examination the next step is to sit the second State Examination (STEX). A large amount of studying is required for this exam. I studied non – stop for 100 days and then passed the exam. If you are interested in learning more about that, visit my blog post „Studying at university„.

Once the second State Examination has been passed, all obstacles on your way to the practical year have been cleared.

The practical year consists of a year-long internship including work shadowing at a hospital. The student is given work similarly to a junior doctor ranging from normal work on the ward to assisting at surgeries.

The areas of surgery and internal medicine are compulsory and only in the last third of the practical year, the student can go into an area of his/her choice. Many students use the practical year to gain experience abroad and/or try to find the right specialist area for their future career. Most universities are indifferent as to where students complete their practical year. The student can freely decide whether to do it abroad or in Germany. It is worth noting though that some universities require one third to be done at the student’s home university. Some universities also don’t split the practical year in thirds but in fourths.

There has been a discussion about whether a compulsory part at a resident doctor, especially a GP, should be introduced. Nothing has been finalized yet and the discussion has moved out of the spotlight for now.

As I have not spent my practical year with a GP nor completed it in fourths, I can only talk about the traditional system. The practical year in thirds.

The surgical third:

If you don’t necessarily think about qualifying into this area, then the surgical part of your practical year is the perfect opportunity to go abroad. The conversations with patients are minimal and therefore you only need to have basic knowledge of the local language. The technical jargon used in the operating theatre can be picked up quite easily and you have enough free time outside of work to go out and enjoy yourself.

Before I made my final decision I had a chat with many of my fellow students who had already completed their internships in Surgery. In addition to the professional aspect, I also wanted to further my knowledge in a foreign language. This is why I chose to go to France. Somewhere in the back of my head I still had the information of France having colonies overseas. After some research I found out 3 possible locations -> Martinique / Guadeloupe and La Réunion.

With the support of the Erasmus Scholarship, I departed to Martinique! I had an amazing time and made many wonderful memories. I would have totally regretted to miss out on that opportunity.

If you want to know more about my time in Martinique visit my „Martinique“ blog post.

Surgery in Germany: Doing the surgical third in Germany can be quite different depending on where it is completed. As always, taking the initiative and showing interest is beneficial and can provide access to many new opportunities.

Your primary duties during the surgical third: admitting new patients, doing clinical examinations, drawing blood, assisting during surgery, carrying out small surgical procedures by yourself and if necessary: ultrasounds;

Some friends even told me that they hardly ever got to see an operating theatre from the inside. This was because they were primarily occupied with admitting new patients, drawing blood and writing the doctor’s letter afterwards.

Other friends have told me that they were given close to no work on the ward but got to spend most of the time in the operating theatre…

In short – the chirurgical third, just like the other two thirds, can go one way or the other. This is why it is important to read reviews and reports by people who have already done it beforehand.

What can you take away from the chirurgical third? Mostly practical skills like suturing, knots, proper wound care and the ability to assess the severity of certain injuries.

The internal medical third:

Your primary duties during the internal medical third: admitting new patients, doing clinical examinations, drawing blood, carrying out small surgical procedures by yourself, if necessary: ultrasounds

In internal medicine drawing blood is often more time – consuming simply because of the fact that there are more blood samples to be taken.

I have not completed my internal medical third yet. I will start it on 03.07 in Montpellier in the South of France and I am already very excited for it.

The elective third:

The elective third gives students the opportunity to get a deeper insight into a subject area of their choice. If the area one wants to qualify in is internal medicine or surgery then many use the elective third as an opportunity to go abroad one more time. Others use the elective third to get an insight into a supporting area. For example, some future surgeons choose orthopaedics or anaesthesia as their elective. Smart students also sometimes chose gynaecology, urology or ENT as many surgeries are carried out in these areas and students can get more experience at the surgical table.

If the elective subject is in the area one wants to specialize in, then the elective third is also an opportunity to network with the hospital department’s team. That way it may be possible to even score a job off the back of your practical year.

I have completed my elective third in dermatology. I eventually want to qualify into this area and working in dermatology for 4 months has reassured me of my decision.

I just started working as a doctor in the exact clinic … (:

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