As the days are slowly getting longer, and spring looms in the near future, it can only be the deep inhale of the medical student ready to embrace the months of revision that lies ahead. Books are dusted off the shelves and Gray's anatomy wrenched open with an immense sigh of distain. But which book should we be pulling off the shelves? If you're anything like me then you're a medical book hoarder. Now let me "Google define" this geeky lexis lingo - a person who collects medical books (lots of medical books) and believes by having the book they will automatically do better!... I wish with a deep sigh! So when I do actually open the page of one, as they are usually thrown across the bed-room floor always closed, it is important to know which one really is the best to choose?!?
These are all the crazy thoughts of the medical book hoarder, however, there is some sanity amongst the madness. That is to say, when you find a really good medical book and get into the topic you start to learn stuff thick and fast, and before you know it you’ll be drawing out neuronal pathways and cardiac myocyte action potentials. Yet, the trick is not picking up the shiniest and most expensive book, oh no, otherwise we would all be walking around with the 130 something pounds gray’s anatomy atlas. The trick is to pick a book that speaks to you, and one in which you can get your head around – It’s as if the books each have their own personality.
Here are a list of books that I would highly recommend:
Tortora – Principles of anatomy and physiology
Tortora is a fantastic book for year 1 medical students, it is the only book I found that truly bridges the gap between A levels and medical students without going off on a ridiculous and confusing tangent.
While it lacks subtle detail, it is impressive in how simplified it can make topics appear, and really helps build a foundation to anatomy and physiology knowledge
The whole book is easy to follow and numerous pretty pictures and diagrams, which make learning a whole lot easier.
Tortora scores a whopping 8/10 by the medical book hoarder
Sherwood – From cells to systems
Sherwood is the marmite of the medical book field, you either love this book or your hate it.
For me, Sherwood used to be my bible in year two. It goes into intricate physiological detail in every area of the body. It has great explanations and really pushes your learning to a greater level than tortora in year one. The book doesn’t just regurgitate facts it really explores concepts.
I cannot be bias, and I must say that I know a number of people who hate this book in every sense of the word. A lot of people think there is too much block text without distractions such as pictures or tables. They think the text is very waffly, not getting straight to the point and sometimes discusses very advanced concepts that do not appear relevant
The truth be told, if you want to study from Sherwood you need to a very good attention span and be prepared to put in the long-hours of work so it’s not for everyone. Nonetheless, if you manage to put the effort in, you will reap the rewards!
Sherwood scores a fair 5-6/10 by the medical book hoarder
Moore & Dalley – Clinical anatomy
At first glance Moore & Dalley can be an absolute mindfield with an array of pastel colours that all amalgamate into one! It’s also full of table after table of muscle and blood vessels with complicated diagrams mixed throughout. This is not a medical book for the faint hearted, and if your foundation of anatomy is a little shakey you’ll fall further down the rabbit hole than Alice ever did.
That being said, for those who have mastered the simplistic anatomy of tortora and spent hours pondering anatomy flash cards, this may be the book for you.
Moore & Dalley does not skimp on the detail and thus if you’re willing to learn the ins and out of the muscles of the neck then look no further. Its sections are actually broken down nicely into superficial and deep structures and then into muscles, vessels, nerves and lymph, with big sections on organs.
This is a book for any budding surgeon!
Moore & Dalley scores a 6/10 by the medical book hoarder
Macleod’s clinical examination
Clinical examination is something that involves practical skills and seeing patients, using your hands to manipulate the body in ways you never realised you could. Many people will argue that the day of the examination book is over, and it’s all about learning while on the job and leaving the theory on the book shelf.
I would like to oppose this theory, with claims that a little understanding of theory can hugely improve your clinical practice.
Macleod’s takes you through basic history and examination skills within each of the main specialties, discussing examination sequences and giving detailed explanations surrounding examination findings. It is a book that you can truly relate to what you have seen or what you will see on the wards. My personal opinion is that preparation is the key, and macleod’s is the ultimate book to give you that added confidence become you tackle clinical medicine on the wards
Macleod’s clinical examination scores a 7/10 by the medical book hoarder
Oxford textbook of clinical pathology
When it comes to learning pathology there are a whole host of medical books on the market from underwood to robbins. Each book has its own price range and delves into varying degrees of complexity. Robbins is expensive and a complex of mix of cellular biology and pathophysiological mechanisms. Underwood is cheap, but lacking in certain areas and quite difficult to understand certain topics. The Oxford textbook of clinical pathology trumps them all.
The book is fantastic for any second year or third year attempting to learn pathology and classify disease. It is the only book that I have found that neatly categories diseases in a way in which you can follow, helping you to understand complications of certain diseases, while providing you with an insight into pathology.
After reading this book you’ll be sure to be able to classify all the glomerulonephritis’s while having at least some hang of the pink and purples of the histological slide.
Oxford textbook of clinical pathology scores a 8/10 by the medical book hoarder
Medical Pharmacology at glance
Pharmacology is the arch nemesis of the Peninsula student (well maybe if we discount anatomy!!), hours of time is spent avoiding the topic followed immediately by hours of complaining we are never taught any of it. Truth be told, we are taught pharmacology, it just comes in drips and drabs. By the time we’ve learnt the whole of the clotting cascade and the intrinsic mechanisms of the P450 pathway, were back on to ICE’ing the hell out of patients and forget what we learned in less than a day.
Medical pharmacology at a glance however, is the saviour of the day. I am not usually a fan of the at a glance books. I find that they are just a book of facts in a completely random order that don’t really help unless you’re an expert in the subject. The pharmacology version is different: It goes into just the right amount of detail without throwing you off the cliff with discussion about bioavailability and complex half-life curves relating to titration and renal function.
This book has the essential drugs, it has the essential facts, and it is the essential length, meaning you don’t have to spend ours reading just to learn a few facts!
In my opinion, this is one of those books that deserves the mantel piece!
Medical Pharmacology at a glance scores a whopping 9/10 by the medical book hoarder.
Anatomy colouring book
This is the last book in our discussion, but by far the greatest. After the passing comments about this book by my housemates, limited to the sluggish boy description of “it’s terrible” or “its S**t”, I feel I need to hold my own and defend this books corner. If your description of a good book is one which is engaging, interesting, fun, interaction, and actually useful to your medical learning then this book has it all.
While it may be a colouring book and allows your autistic side to run wild, the book actually covers a lot of in depth anatomy with some superb pictures that would rival any of the big anatomical textbooks. There is knowledge I have gained from this book that I still reel off during the question time onslaught of surgery.
Without a doubt my one piece of advice to all 1st and 2nd years would be BUY THIS BOOK and you will not regret it!
Anatomy colouring book scores a tremendous 10/10 by the medical book hoarder
Let the inner GEEK run free and get buying:)!!
As a hospital doctor, surgeon or GP we encounter death frequently. We quickly learn to cope. It helps when we know that we have done everything within our power to prevent death. When death is close we have the ability, medication and specialists services to make the process as 'comfortable' as possible. In the final moments it is rare that the patient is alone; whether in the company of family, friends or health care professionals.
When an individual dies on expedition it may have been avoidable, you have very little kit to prevent it, they may be alone and they probably were your friend.
No one prepares you for the potential of a client dying. But it happens.
First of all, I am not trying to put you off doing an expedition. I love expedition medicine and have dedicated the last five years of my life to it. But I was not prepared for my first near death experience and I want to make sure you are.
During an expedition injuries, near misses and deaths are sometimes avoidable. There may have been a faulty bit of kit, medication which wasn't packed or route marker that fell down ... Hindsight is a wonderful thing. You, the team and the organisers work within what is feasible and normal health and safety don't and can't apply. I am NOT saying it is ok to be negligent, but a degree of pragmatism is need. What you need to remember is the competitors/ clients are aware of the dangers and, as medics, we should be too.
Many medics are shocked by the lack of kit taken on expedition. But you need to think about the environment you are in and then think rationally. If your nearest decompression chamber is 3 days away by boat, is there much point taking oxygen on a diving expedition? If you are on expedition in the middle of the jungle is there any point taking a defib if any client in need of a defib is unlikely to survive extrication. You have to work within the limits of your environment and with the kit you have. As the medic you need to be aware of the nearest hospital and their facilities, the nearest large hospital with surgical and ITU facilities and the casevac plan.
During expeditions the clients often become good friends. You will experience their highs and lows and share incredible experiences. This makes it especially hard when unfortunate events occur. At this point our role as medic often broadens to counsellor and bereavement officer. The other clients, organisers and medics need support during this time. Try to start this process whilst you are out there.
Even with near misses, the psychological effect on people can be huge. Signs and symptoms are generally easy to spot, but screen for them at clinics. Be aware during race events that grief may manifest though clients pulling out, loss of performance and increased injuries due to lack of sleep, low mood or poor concentration.
No matter what happens when you are on expedition my advice is; you can only work within your skill set and with the equipment you have. As a foundation doctor, if you’re faced with an unresponsive client - you are not expected to perform RSI and intubate. Work through your ABCDE and work within your limitations.
If you would like to suggest any other blog topics or have any questions please post below.
This guidance was released today in the UK and if you haven't read it, it comes into effect in April and essentially is saying: we are allowed to maintain private online social profiles but must be aware if patients can access these and how we handle it if they contact us; any opinions voiced we have to make it clear it is our own and conduct yourself online as you would face to face with regards to confidentiality and boundaries.
This is quite interesting for me, as in our medical school there have been select cases of social media being used in disciplinary processes and I know myself that some of the photos I had on Facebook (I have deleted it) were not exactly portraying myself as the 100% professional doctor the GMC would love me to be.
But then reading the guidance, it makes no mention of content from when you were younger. When I'm an F1 will anybody really care about the drunk photos of me from freshers week 6 years ago and will these be taken out of context? I get the impression most people won't, but some might.
I really think they should have put a summarising take-home message in there somewhere: don't take the p**s, think before you post, don't give out medical advice as anything but your opinion and you'll be fine.
I recently read a question on meducation posted around a year ago, the jist of which was “as a medical student, is it too early to start developing commitment to a specialty?” I.e. “even though I haven’t graduated yet, should I start building a portfolio of experience and evidence to show that specialty X is what I really want to do?”
MMC revolutionised (for better or worse) the medical career structure forcing new graduates to decide on a career path much earlier. Many have appreciated the clear delineation of their career pathway. Others have found the 15 month period between leaving university and applying for specialty training too short to make an informed decision (just ask the 10% of FY2s that took a career break last year (i)). Whether right or wrong, there is now less time to rotate round ‘SHO’ jobs, decide on a career and build a CV capable of winning over an interview panel.
You’ll probably find you’re in one of 2 camps at university:
Those who are absolutely 110% certain there is nothing they want to do, ever, other than specialty X, or
Those who really like specialty X, but also like specialties W, Y and Z and haven't made up their minds
(A few people find themselves feeling they don’t want to be part of any medical career, but that’s for another post.) Students identifying with the first statement are usually concerned they will not get enough general experience, or that they will be stuck with their decision if they change their minds later on. Those who are leaning more towards statement 2 may not build as strong a body of evidence for any one specialty; however it’s possible to get involved in activities either relevant to a few career options, or several specialty-specific activities and subsequently edit the CV for a specific interview.
The key message is that whether you think you have your career mapped out or not, medical school is the perfect time to start collecting evidence that you’re interested in a career in a particular specialty: time for extra-curricular activities only becomes scarcer when you have a full time job complete with working long days, nights and weekends. Your experiences at medical school can then be supplemented with taster weeks, teaching and judicious use of your study budget for training days and conferences; bear in mind that all specialties allow at least 3 years* following FY2 before starting specialty training which can be used for gaining further experience (but be prepared to justify and defend your actions).
It’s also important to consider the manner in which individual specialties require such a commitment to be demonstrated: In general terms, the more niche and/or competitive the specialty, the more they will want you to demonstrate that you a) really know what the job entails and b) have made a concerted effort to further your knowledge of the subject. To get a job in neurosurgery for example, which is not only niche but had a completion ratio of 4.9 in 2013(ii) you’ll need to have gone to courses relevant to neurosurgery and have achievements related to the specialty such as a neurosurgical elective, attachment or taster experience(iii).
Some specialties assess commitment in a variety of situations e.g. the radiology interview this year had stations on the general overview and future of radiology as a career, a CV based demonstration of commitment to specialty as well as a station requiring the interpretation of images. General Practice on the other hand which in its very nature is very broad, at no point allocates marks specifically for commitment to specialty (or anything else on a CV for that matter) as it is entirely dependent on an exam (SJTs and clinical questions) and skill-based stations at a selection centre. The person specification* details what is expected and desirable as demonstration of commitment in each specialty.
So, how do you actually show you’re committed to a specialty? It may be pretty obvious but try to get a consistent and well-rounded CV. Consider:
• Joining a student committee or group for your specialty. If there isn't one at your university, find some like-minded people and start one
• Asking the firms you work for if you can help with an audit/research even if data collection doesn’t sound very interesting
• Finding a research project (e.g. as part of a related intercalated or higher degree)
• Prizes and examinations relevant to the specialty
• Developing a relevant teaching programme
• Selecting your selected study modules/components, elective and dissertation with your chosen specialty in mind
• Going to teaching or study days aimed at students at the relevant Royal College
Remember it’s not just what you’ve done but also what you’ve learnt from it; get into a habit of reflecting on what each activity has helped you achieve or understand. This is where most people who appear to have the perfect CV come unstuck: There will always be someone who has more presentations and publications etc. etc. but don’t be put off that it means they are a dead cert for the job. Whatever you do, make sure you have EVIDENCE that you’ve done it. Become a bit obsessive. Trust me, you forget a lot and nothing counts if you can’t prove it.
Assessing commitment to specialty aims to highlight who really understands and wants a career in that specialty. From my own recent experience however, just identifying experiences explicitly related to a specific specialty ignores the transferable and clinically/professionally/personally important skills one has that would make them a successful trainee. I’d be very interested in your views on ‘commitment to specialty’: for example do you think the fact someone has 20 papers in a given specialty means they are necessarily the best for the job? Or are you planning to take a year out post-FY2 to build on your CV to gain more experience? Let us know!
*See person specifications for specialty-specific details at http://specialtytraining.hee.nhs.uk/specialty-recruitment/person-specifications-2013/