1. Avoiding the neurology station
Neurology to many medical students and young doctors can appear to be a ‘dark art’ and one that is to be avoided at all costs. Unless you want to become a neurologist, then for many, it is a subject that can appear, initially to be quite difficult. However, do not let this put you off. Not only is neurology a fascinating subject, but once you have learnt a few techniques for understanding how to classify the neurological system, it does not become that hard. So do not avoid it, embrace it!
2. Not practicing history station because you do it everyday and know how to take a medical history
This is a common issue (see the next top tip to fail as well). You are a doctor, you take a medical history everyday, so why do you need to practice it? Well, the simple answer is, (and I can tell you this from experience in training many doctors to go through PACES,) that you have bad habits and you do not take a proper medical history. The PACES is a performance where everything is done ‘by the book’ and this includes the history. So practice it as much as any other station, because you do not want to fail because you took a bad history.
3. Not practicing communications skills because that is also something you do everyday and know how to do, right?
Wrong. Again, you get into bad habits, and once you start practicing, you will find that you do a lot of the following: talk over the patient; not allow enough time for them to digest the information and generally be too fast. A lot of this comes from doctors having heard most of the responses and trying to reassure the patient. Let the patient talk, give them time, and PRACTICE. Again, failing because of the communications station is not pleasant.
4. Focusing on the complicated, rare conditions
Focusing on primarily the rare conditions is a sure-fire way to fail. You have to know about some rare conditions, but also, do not forget that common conditions happen commonly. In a later blog post we will go over the top conditions covered in the MRCP PACES exams.
5. Not practicing presentation skills
Presentation of your findings is an important part of your PACES exam and verbal diarrhoea is common with nervousness. Again I will go over some presentation tips in a later blog post but in the meantime practice your presentation skills with a friend and get them to (honestly) give you feedback.
The main thing to remember is practice everything, repeatedly and don’t leave anything to chance. Even the aspects of your clinical examinations that you find easy or feel confident about.