Answers to "How can new entrants to medical school be supported?"
Once students have entered medical school it is important that they are supported from day one. Even the brightest and best students can stumble and fall with the sheer volume of work, strain on their relationships and drain on their personal resources. Preparing students and calibrating their expectations of student life with the expectations of the medical school, in terms of academic performance, conduct, professionalism and student responsibilities is vital. New entrants to medical school should be adequately equipped with the tools they need for each hurdle they face, be it their first few weeks away from home to their first set of exams.
The first week at medical school provides an ideal opportunity to orientate students to their new medical school but to also facilitate the development of new friendships, both inside and outside the medical school, through membership of the various sport and social clubs and societies. The first week can also provide opportunities to introduce students to staff in an informal and relaxed setting, initiating contact and building the rapport that is likely to foster on-going student engagement as they embark on their medical degree.
The first term for any student presents a transitioning challenge, often moving away from home, managing financial affairs and navigating new environments. For medical students the experience is likely to be more pressured due to the intensity of academic study expected from the word go and engagement from the start should be fostered. Fredricks et al (2004) define three dimensions to student engagement: behavioural, emotional and cognitive:
Students who are behaviourally engaged attend lectures and seminars with low rates of absenteeism, correlated to better grades (Liles et al 2018). Medical schools can improve motivation to attend teaching sessions by ensuring attendance is monitored, timetables have fewer gaps and multiple sessions are held each day (Nevins et al 2016).
Emotionally engaged students are interested, enjoy their course and experience a sense of belonging. Medical schools can promote openness around mental health and well-being by frequent discussion and inclusion in the curriculum, sign posting and making visible psychological and welfare support services and encouraging students to seek help when needed.
Cognitively engaged students are invested in their learning, seek out opportunities to improve and relish a challenge. Medical schools should recognise the difficulties students have in transitioning to new styles of teaching and learning compared to their previous experiences. Academic support should be available for all students, not just those struggling academically. Services could provide additional support besides academic counselling, such as assistance with research and general advice on revision skills (De Voe 2016). Learning to learn courses and advice on learning strategies for students during their first term can ease the transition to higher education, ensuring students have the right academic tools to study effectively, maximising their output and potential.
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Fredricks JA, Blumenfeld PC, Paris AH (2004) School Engagement: Potential of the Concept, State of the Evidence. Review of Educational Research 74(1):59-109
Liles J, Vuk J, Tariq S. (2018) Study habits of medical students: An analysis of which study habits most contribute to success in the pre-clinical years. MedEdPublish ; 7(1):61doi:
Nevins E, Moori P, Alexander L, Richards B, Bleasdale V, Sharma A.(2016) Could
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