Shadowing a DoctorAugust 16, 2012
The UK has 32 medical schools, and all of them offer the same degree. Unlike other degree courses, medical schools are not ranked as to which is the most prestigious. No matter where you study medicine in the UK, you will receive the same training and education. While some medical schools require higher grades to get in than others do, this is only because of the limited number of places and not because of the higher quality of the degree. In short, all medical degrees are regarded equally, no matter where they are from.
Because most medical graduates (although not all) end up working for the National Health Service (NHS), all medical schools have to have the same high standards. While other degrees provide honour degrees, where different levels are awarded such as a first, second or third class honours, medical school operates on a simple pass or fail system. Therefore, anybody passing a medical degree is deemed to have achieved the same high competency level in all areas and is considered safe to practice medicine.
Because this standard is set so high, and there are no rewards for achieving excellence beyond this level, medical schools cannot be ranked as to which one is the best, although different schools will have variable pass and fail rates. However, this is rarely due to the teaching, but in the quality of the candidates and the number of places available.
After graduating from medical school, all graduates have to apply for foundation jobs. The medical school that a junior doctor attended is never taken into account when positions are allocated for these foundation jobs. Employers are never privy to what school a candidate attended until after the selection process, and instead, health services award positions mathematically depending on where in the medical school a student was in comparison to others of the same year. Employers may also ask students to sit an interview and pass a series of judgement tests.
Because the NHS is a national organisation, the amount of doctors in any given area also plays a factor as to where a junior doctor will end up working. National coverage can differ up and down the country, so a junior doctor that may struggle to find a foundation position, in say London, may find it easier in Birmingham, Manchester or Edinburgh. However, no matter where the location, there is never a surplus of junior doctors, so every medical school graduate, no matter where they attained their degree, ends up finding a place eventually.
On the job learning
While medical schools provide academic and theory-based learning, all schools also provide a student with physical, on the job training as part of the medical degree. Students may find themselves working in all sorts of medical settings, from busy accident and emergency rooms, to clinics and health centres. This on the job learning doesn’t stop, and it takes several more years for a graduate on leaving medical school to be fully qualified.