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Getting On

May 28, 2014

This week, in my quest to finally pass Finals, I am attending an intense PACES revision course.

It’s being run by college and consists of a hot mess on how to examine slickly, present slickly and answer a viva slickly. The emphasis is on being slick. Since I declined the opportunity of a make-up firm (because #CleggLife at the BMJ is great), this is my chance to limber up my rusty clinical muscles. For most things, both examinations and knowledge, I can feel it stored in a dusty box in the attic of my mind. In addition, there was a separate revision course last Saturday morning, focussed on presenting and viva-ing on common conditions in each area. On the Bank Holiday, Dom and Alex came round to put me through my PACES.

I can feel it all coming back, I can. Since I know from my feedback that for most of the examinations, I’m already quite good, I need to concentrate on getting back to being a lean, mean clinical machine. And then surpassing that.

This week’s revision course began with one of the senior tutors in college welcoming us back. It’s…an odd experience since none of us want to be here, and most have curtailed their electives in various exotic corners. This tutor advised us to put our lacklustre performances in the original PACES behind us. This grated on me.

True, the last thing I need right now is a mental block dumping on me while I’m trying to examine. BUT PACES1.0 is the reason I’m here now. Before I said that I was determined to learn something from this, both on a practical level, and on a deeper personal level. This chapter in my life WILL have meaning. I feel humbled to be given this second chance, to be surrounded by genuinely nice people resitting. I wouldn’t have said I was arrogant before – I don’t think PACES1.0 is the nemesis sent to destroy my hubris but…maybe? I am certain though that, though I was good before, I have been given a chance to become better. I intend to seize that chance.

This afternoon, that same tutor asked to see me after the course had finished for the day. A little warning light started flashing in my head.

Oh God! They’ve made a mistake. I’ve failed Surgery PACES. I have to resit Surgery PACES. I have to start revising Surgery PACES. SURGERY PACES.

Thankfully, it was nothing like that. The tutor had gone into my record and was surprised to see that my past exam performance is far more successful. This led her to think that something personally turbulent had set my exams akilter. Refreshing that this episode is so far from my norm, she suspected that someone had died. I broke it to her that it was nothing like that, that one or two marginal stations and a disaster of a station conspired to undo me. I also assured her that it is nearly impossible for me to mess up the Shorts station that bad twice.

A few months ago, I don’t think I could have been that rational, lucid and pragmatic…


When I learned I’d failed Medicine PACES, this was an accurate reflection of my mood.

I was angry, I was morose, I couldn’t understand it. It doesn’t help that Eve, and most of the rest of my support network, had upped and left me by myself. My mind was set on confining me to a purgatory made for one. I am my own worst enemy.

But time passes, as it always does. The other day, I remarked to a friend (who had just heard the news) that I was in a good place with my current situation. I think I verbalised the sentiment before I’d realised it. Getting angry isn’t going to help anyone now unless it fuels my motivation to revise. Previously, I did shake with the worry that I couldn’t do it, that PACES2.0 is simply unsurmountable. But then I reminded myself that I easily passed at least half of PACES1.0. I can do this. I believe I can.

On Twitter, there’s a rabble of third years fretting and revising over their first clinical exams. Aw bless. But they encourage me. If they can get their heads down, revise and power through, I know I can. I’ve done it many times before. I just need to do it one more time.

And if that isn’t enough, I have a little extraordinary encouragement as well…


I will be brilliant. You can count on it!

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