Dr Anna Stickland and myself are the Year Leads for undergraduate medicine at Liverpool. We were recently asked to write an article about how we welcome students to the school of medicine for the The Faculty of Academic & Clinical Educators Newsletter. I thought I would share it here in case any of my educator friends found it useful/interesting.
First impressions matter. The new MBChB students arriving to start their studies at the School of Medicine strongly agree. They’ll have carefully picked their outfits and be actively looking to make new friends as they begin the next chapter of their life. For many, those first few days in Liverpool are their first time living alone, away from their friends and family, and often in a different city or even country. From the School’s perspective, it’s also a chance to make a strong first impression. Those first few interactions we have with new students represent an opportunity to smooth some of those challenging transitions, to make them feel at home and welcomed into the School and the University, and to establish academic foundations that all aspects of the course can build upon. With this in mind, we design a bespoke series of activities to occur during those early days that we collectively refer to as Welcome Week.
Welcome Week has evolved over recent years, with COVID disruption forcing things online for a period of time. 2023 saw a return to fully in-person and a much more enjoyable experience for all involved.
This year we kicked off with a welcome lecture from the Dean, who immediately established what it means to be one of the 335 members of the course from the >4500 applicants. It’s always fun to see the reaction to the opening “welcome student doctors”! However, to be a student doctor has responsibility and therefore the Dean’s opening was followed swiftly by an alignment of expectations through an introduction to professionalism and conduct expected of medical students.
With the formalities out of the way, we split the cohort into smaller groups who then rotated through three different interactive group activities. Each activity was designed help the cohort get to know one another and to get some hands-on experience and guidance in how to access and use the resources and tech associated with the course.
‘Student Doctor 101’, led by our Professional Services team, covered everything they needed to know to complete their registration to the course and provided a working knowledge of the essentials needed to make a start on the course including resources, processes, contacts and expectations.
‘Where stuff is and how to find it’, run by our TEL team, was an excellent session that did exactly what the title suggests; at least, in relation to Canvas, the intranet, Teams, and Pebblepad. Students brought their devices and experienced an interactive walk through of each of these core programs.
‘Student Doctor Taskmaster’
This event, run by the year Directors and Prof Scott, was a team-building session designed to encourage the students to think on their feet and makes some new friends, whilst working through some loosely medically related tasks. Students were welcomed with a personalised message from the Channel 4 Taskmaster creator himself Alex Horne, who asserted with great conviction that Liverpool is indeed his most favourite medical school. Thereafter, the students were tasked to formulate the funniest newspaper headline from words within BMJs, to draw blindfolded “a good student doctor” and had the opportunity to play a brand-new card game ‘caveman medicine’, to test their communication skills. Good, silly, fun even though a surprising number of students did not know what Taskmaster is!
The Taskmaster bonanza culminated with an invitation for the students to continue after the scheduled session to complete a final task before the end of the week to “Impress the Dean”. They took to this with gusto. Submissions ranged from art, poetry, baking, music, song, and several fantastic charitable acts which evidenced just why this talented group had been chosen from all the other applicants to become a member of our school. The Dean was impressed, amused, and entertained but, most importantly, the students got to know one another and had some fun.
Later in the week, our superb Peer Mentors took their assigned Y1 mentees on a guided tour of the University and local surroundings, sharing their expert knowledge and providing some opportunities for some nice photo opportunities for our new students to share with their friends and families and to look back on in future years. During the latter parts of Welcome Week, the University and Guild put on a range of activities that our students engage with such as a Student Society Fair, as well as hosting several introductory lectures and sporting events.
The following week for our students, Introduction Week, had more of an academic feel. Here most of the School Teams outlined how the year will work. This is quite an intensive week for some of our students who can find starting University quite overwhelming . The excitement has worn off a bit and it’s suddenly real. Having our Y1 and wider School team engaged with events enables early conversations and support, the students feel able to approach us, their Peer Mentors and the Wellbeing Team for guidance. Some of our Y2 students recognising their challenging experiences starting University worked with the Comms team to develop some short videos offering reassurance shared across a variety of School Social Media platforms.
Welcome Week is a key component of every student doctor’s start at the School of Medicine. It is highlighted within applicants’ pre-registration communications and (hopefully) is something that prospective students are excited about as they commence their learning journey with us. On our side it’s a massive team effort to put everything in place and is a tiring but rewarding experience. Being able to speak one-to-one to every single student on their first days at UoL makes a big difference in setting them up for success in their studies and helping them to feel at home in Liverpool.