We have a unique relationship with medical knowledge,dont we? Its more like a hedonist son who talks to his dad only when he wants money, feels troubled after demanding and after getting the money, forgets his dad. Likewise we only study whole heartedly when an exam is close and specially the exam we cant afford to fail. Fortunately or unfortunately, PLAB part 2 is one of such exams.In this document, buckle up to know more about this exam via my experience, tips, dos and donts that i am about to share.
CHAPTER 1: ME , MYSELF AND I
I landed in London on 11th february 2015. I had applied for UK Visa from Pakistan and i wont tell the details of that process as it might change the course of the discussion here,but i got it in first application. My exam was scheduled to be on 3rd of March 2015. Yes ladies and gentlemen, i had ONLY 2 weeks to prepare ! Probably what you are thinking right now is that im some top gun, some topper, some self delusional arrogant overconfident person. Thats not the case. Believe me many people gave me discourgements. “Overconfidence is your problem” as i heard once from a friend. “Time is too short for you buddy” someone else would say. And so on. I passed the exam. In those 14 days i would sleep at 12 am and waake up at about 5 or 6 am and start studying. I would practice with friends in my accomodation, tubes and cafes. i didnt rest a single moment. Know what? i didnot regret my decision at all… It was the most adventurous and daring thing i ever did in my life. The only thing which made me distinct from others is that unlike others, i UNDERSTOOD what this exam demands. I knew what the GMC examiners in PLAB-2 are looking for. If you understand that as well, you can realise that what i did was logical.
CHAPTER 2: UNDERSTANDING PLAB-2
This exam tests two things. Knowledge and your behaviour suitability to work in the UK. Now if your knowledge is limited and your behaviour is good enough, i can confirm it to you with all responsibility that you WILL pass. If your knowledge is over the roof and behaviour is not responsible enough, you will FAIL !! Let me give you an example. Suppose that you have a station of 5 minutes in which you have to counsel a cancer patient about the drug morphine. Explaining him the adverse effects and efficiency of morphine is easy, a 3rd year med student could do that as well. But while you do counsel him, your voice tone should be very very low as if you are having extreme sympathy and empathy for the patient. If you counsel him all things about morphine correctly but your tone was normal or rude, im sorry but you have failed the station. The British people are very very polite people, and this is what GMC demands from you :“IF YOU WANT TO WORK IN MY COUNTRY, YOU DAMN WELL PROVE IT THAT YOU ARE WELL BEHAVED ENOUGH TO DO SO !”. Therefore the focus of practice for this exam should be 80% towards improving your behaviour and conduct. You will have to work hard on that. The knowledge requirements are very simple for this exam, but it doesnt mean that you dont have to study anything at all. Another thing that the GMC examiners are looking for is that if you make a mistake , how efficiently are you able to cover it up? All of these things come by practice and just practice.Fortunately for me, i had a very detailed idea of what plab 2 exam is all about, and i thought that 2 weeks are enough for me to modify my behaviour.
CHAPTER 3: THE MILLION DOLLAR QUESTION
So now that we know what the exam is all about, which academy is the best? Swammy? Samson? Hamed? Liverpool? Well let me be very honest with you. All that these academies do is that they try to fix in your brains what i just explained to you in chapter 2. They dont have a magic stick and a spell that they would cast on you and you will pass the exam. Join any academy, try to modify your behaviour over there by practice… I know people who attended all the academies and then appeared in PLAB 2, which i think is what shows insecurity. I know people who attended one academy only. This is a never ending debate. If someone fails the exam after attending a particular academy, he would most likely talk ill about that academy, but the reality was that he HIMSELF failed to modify his behaviour for the exam and academy was not at fault. I totally leave it upto you to decide for yourselves what you want to join.
CHAPTER 4: BEHAVIOUR REBOOT:
Alright then, should we begin some exam practice now? Perfect ! Here we go.Please repeat the following words after me 5 times …
“HELLO! ITS A PLEASURE TO SEE YOU TODAY!”
“HOW MAY I CALL YOU?”
“HOW CAN I HELP YOU TODAY?”
“I AM REALLY SORRY TO ASK THIS BUT…”
“I AM GOING TO ASK YOU SOME PERSONAL QUESTIONS IF YOU DONT MIND…”
Very very well done ! Now repeat the following 5 times:
“CAN YOU PLEASE CONFIRM YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH THIS CHILD?”
“I REALLY WISH I WAS WRONG, BUT ALL THE TESTS HAVE COME BACK POSITIVE FOR…”
“LIKE ANY SURGERY, THIS SURGERY HAS UNFORTUNATELY SOME COMPLICATIONS LIKE…”
“LIKE ANY MEDICINE, THIS MEDICINE HAS SOME COMPLICATIONS LIKE…”
“I WOULD LIKE TO EXAMINE YOU IF YOU DONT MIND”
Well done guys ! You can pass this exam now ! Practice these lines daily before going to sleep. This is exactly what the exam is all about, be apologetic, be polite. I know that certain people of my country have a problem saying the word sorry, they get a chest ache after that (kyu g Pakistanio ? ) but you better work on these things.If you are laughing right now and think im crazy, you will understand what im saying when you start an academy. Tears after failing plab 2 are heavier i guess. Thats all i can say for now.
CHAPTER 5: PRACTICE SESSIONS
I think that no matter how many times you watch examination videos and how many times you get a grip and command on your notes, if you dont practice enough, chances of passing are slim. I knew that this exam requires practice and i would practice day and night. Once i was with one of my Egyptian friends and we decided to practice the station of PV bleed in a train tube in London. I was to be the patient and my friend the doctor. (Keep in mind that Londoners dont see other people in trains, every body is lost in his/her own world)
Friend: “How can i help you today”
Me : “Doctor iv been bleeding from my front passage for the last 4 days”
Friend: “Im really sorry to know that. Is there any chance that you are pregnant?”
Me : “Yes doctor, im 4 weeks pregnant”
(By this time, 2-3 people in the train stopped their work and started staring us)
Friend: “Do you live alone at your home?”
Me : “No doctor, i live with my boyfriend”
Friend: “Had you been pregnant before?”
Me : “Yes doctor, 3 times and they were all miscarriages”
(Now the entire train has their ears and eyes glued at us)
Friend: “It seems to me that you have some placenta issues, its the tissue which supplies nutrients to the little one in your tummy”
Me :“Oh yea ! the little one in my tummy really loves to kick”
Friend: “we will have to perform an ultrasound from your front passage and confirm the findings and would let you know”
ME: “thank you doctor”
By this time , people had started thinking that me and my friend were lunatics, but we didnt care, we stepped out of our stations and continued practicing more… Thats how you guys should be as well when it comes to practicing…unconcerned from others !
CHAPTER 6: ON THE DAY OF THE EXAM
Following would be the DOs:
Sleep well the night before
.>Eat heavy breakfast.
Exam takes place in 3 Hardman street in Manchester. Its a narrow road and the GMC office is in a building in a floor. So ideally you should be well aware of the whereabouts of this location a night before.
Dress very very professionally. Keep in mind that the examiners ask the patients that " In real life, would you like to be the patient of such a doctor?" and to answer that, patient in the exam always notices you from head to toe. So dress professionally to impress him/her.
Dont study too much that it compromises your time to practice. Download the GMC bell app to use in practice.
There is one minute to read the task and 5 minutes to do it. That one minute should be the time when you should create a map in your mind what you would do in the coming 5 minutes. Practice on this pattern.
Mental awareness is very very important on that very day. If you are mentally aware and prepared, exam is easy. Keep in mind that use of common sense and mental awareness doesnt necessarily requires being a graduate of the best med school of Pakistan, a medal holder in Nigeria or being a graduate from Ukraine. It just has to be there.
Following would be the DONTs:
Never compromise on your diet. I know that eating burgers and fish and chips is not healthy, but always eat enough because during the days of prep for the exam, our metabolism is high.
Dont follow the notes of your academy blindly if you sense that the task of the scenario is asking something else. Use common sense.
Dont argue too much with people from different countries. Create a healthy environment.
CHAPTER 7: THE GONORRHEA INFERNO
I would like to now describe the people that GMC hires as the patients on the day of the exam. First of all, they are not real patients, but paid actors or actresses. As we dont see those actors/actresses on TV, its normal to think that the people that GMC hires are some lousy actors etc… Ladies and gentlemen !! MARK MY WORDS !! THATS ABSOLUTELY WRONG !! Those actors and actresses who act like patients are so damn trained and so precise in acting that one is startled. Here i would like to give the account of one of the stations that i faced in my exam that gave me creeps till the day result was announced. The task was that a teen girl had seen a genitourinary medicine clinic few weeks back and got her tests done for STDs and now the results are with you. They are positive for GONORRHEA. Inform her about the news SENSITIVELY.
I went inside, introduced myself to her and got the station started. She was indeed a teenager white girl and her expressions were really like an anxious patient who wants to know his results. Now when i said, “As you know you had some tests done 2 weeks back. The results are with me now.”
She gave her body very very anxious jerk, her eyes got wide opened and her hands started flexing. She did that with such superb cordination that i swear TO GOD that i felt a mild shiver beneath my toes and i said to myself that i better tread very sensitively now otherwise im gonna fail the station. When i informed her in all the politeness that i have that the results have come back for Gonorrhea, she went nuts. Her acting was so brilliant that honestly i felt my stomach churning and in the next minutes of my station i kept reassuring her that this condition can be treated by anti biotics, you dont have to worry that much… but she wont listen… The station bell got over… when i went home, i was shattered. I had nightmares till yesterday when the result came. i would scream at the middle of the night that “you are gonna be fine !!”.I was more upset than the guy who gave her gonorrhea. The friend with whom im staying right now, his daughter asked me few days ago,
“What is Green Area?”
“Well i dont know”
“Then why were you screaming last night that green area is treatable??”
"Well you know what honey? maybe green area is not that green… " is what i said. Alhamduliah i passed the exam but i will not forget till the last day of my life how amazingly that girl acted.
CHAPTER 8: COUNSELLING STATIONS
I believe that all that matters in a station is that whether or not you are able to satisfy a patient. That is quite apparant on his face when you are finished. If he looks satisfied, you have passed. That is the reason that when i came out of the exam , i was 95 % sure that im gonna pass today (thanks to gonorrhea for the 5 %).Invite questions. Unfortunately, we think that until or unless we finish all the points given in the notes of the academy, we would fail. Thats false. Just address the patients concern. For example, a station came to me that a type 1 diabetic has an episode of DKA and is refusing admission. Counsel her. I went inside and after introductions i asked her out that why is she refusing admission? She said that she has a baby at home and if she would get admitted who would take care of the baby? I said that i can arrange social services for her baby. She refused the offer. Then i asked her that if she would stay at home with her baby while having DKA, how could she take care of the baby when she is not fine herself??Immidiately, she accepted the admission . I knew at that very moment that i have passed the station, altough in the remaining station i had to tell her more about type 1 diabetes (which any doc can do easily).Just notice what are the main concerns of the patient in counselling stations, and if you have adequately addressed them, the patient will give you signs of satisfaction on his face which is a guarantee that you will pass. You are not required to finish the notes, but to finish the concerns of patients. Say following frequently,
“IS THERE ANYTHING ELSE YOU WOULD LIKE TO KNOW??”
“IS THERE ANYTHING ELSE WHICH BOTHERS YOU??”
If you follow all that i have told you above, plab 2 wont be a problem for you. It might sound easy what i wrote above, trust me its not unless you practice !!
CHAPTER 9: PLANS
All glory be to Allah almighty without Whom im nothing. I passed ! Seems like just yesterday when i passed plab 1 in november 2014 and now i have plab 2 and i applied for registration. People say that UK doesnt offer you training posts very easily. Well for me, screw training !! There is so much more i wanna do here even if i settle in non training posts !!
I wanna play Led Zepplin’s “Stairway to heaven” guitar solo in the London underground. I wanna scream and support Manchester United football team in live matches. I wanna treat lesbians and trans-sexual patients. I want to give AZAAN in the biggest mosque of UK. I want to have intellectual debates with atheists and islamophobes. i wanna learn the Scottish accent. I want to burst my vocal cords to pieces during protests on 10-Downing street when Israel raids on Gaza. I want to make Irish friends. I want to go hiking on the Hills of Wales. I want work in the prison cells as a doctor loaded with Albanian and Italian gangsters. I want to do a break through RANDOMISED CONTROLLED TRIAL in the NHS which would give infinity to my name. In Sha Allah !
They ruled my land for over 400 years, time to return back the favour !!
DR HUSAM JAMIL