The opening weeks of life as a medical student can be daunting, tiring and exciting. Students are expected to successfully balance a challenging workload with a hectic and eventful social life.
Many students will also be living away from home for the first time and dealing with the day-to-day struggles experienced by students such as home-sickness, making new friends and doing their domestic chores.
We've listed below some of the support available to you during this time.
Struggling to cope with the pressures of university? Talk to someone who can help.
The Counselling service is staffed by professional telephone counsellors 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. They are all members of the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy and are bound by strict codes of confidentiality and ethical practice.
The Peer support service runs alongside Counselling giving doctors and medical students in distress or difficulty the choice of speaking in confidence to another doctor.
Call 0330 123 1245 - 24 hours a day, 7 days a week or find out more.
What is a buddy scheme?
A buddy scheme is a form of family, where older students act as guides for new students. They create an informal pastoral care system where students can seek advice without having to access formal university sources, lecturers, clinical staff or other deanery officials, which in itself is a daunting prospect for some students.
Read about the buddy scheme in Northern Ireland
Role of a buddy
The role of a buddy can vary but here are some suggestions of the kind of things buddies may be able to help with:
Advising on the established support networks available at medical school. It is important that students suffering with serious health and/or welfare issues are recommended to seek established and official support services. Buddy schemes are informal support networks and therefore, it is the role of the Welfare Officer (or equivalent) in your medical school, to deal with any serious concerns students may have.
Providing advice on how to approach studying medicine. The techniques needed are quite different from school studies and balancing the work with social activities can be difficult.
Giving advice on what books are essential for studies. Most students get given an endless list of "books you need" when in reality the majority of these may not be essential reading and can be loaned from libraries.
Offering to help prepare examination style mock questions or helping students to prepare for their first exams.
Creating a buddy scheme
Setting up a buddy scheme at your medical school may be quite an undertaking. We suggest you contact the Welfare Officer (or equivalent) at your medical school and take advice from there.
Handy tips for creating a buddy scheme at your medical school:
- Find out if there is an existing buddy scheme or if one has existed previously.
- Set up a steering group responsible for the logistics of matching buddies and organising social events for all the buddy families.
- Get a list of the names of all first year medical students.
- Appeal for volunteers from all years to act as buddies to first year students.
- Print and distribute details of the buddies to every first year medical student during registration and introduction lectures.
- Organise a slot in introductory lectures to introduce the buddy scheme to students and to explain the principles of the programme. Emphasise the importance of using this network to help students settle into university life and to answer questions or concerns.
- Organise events where first year students can meet their buddies. (Examples could be guided tours around the medical school campus and social events). Try to get some sponsorship to fund events. Liaise regularly with the medical social society at your university for their support and possible funding.
Encourage buddies to give their contact details to their first year students so that they can get hold of them if they have any problems or questions in their first few weeks and months at university. Remember to keep in touch!