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Recovering from OSCE Disaster

24 April 2019 - Dr Eleanor Carey

“That was a disaster. I ran out of time. I didn’t answer the question. I definitely failed that case”

As a Medical educator I’ve heard it a thousand times, and you’ve probably found yourself saying or thinking it.

Most of the time I find the candidate saying this has actually done an adequate, or even a good, job. As doctors we set ourselves very high standards. Failing to reach these standards does not mean you’re not doing well!

But, of course, in an exam situation you don’t get to find out that you answered well, and so often you walk away from a case feeling like a failure.

So, how do you recover from this feeling and walk into the next case confidently?

I’m going to give you three techniques to try. They probably won’t all work for you, but hopefully one will be your ticket to exam success.

Technique one: mindfulness/ meditation

This technique is about helping yourself feel calm. This can be useful after any case, not just after a disastrous one.

Put both hands at your side and close your eyes.

Inhale for a count of 10. While you inhale listen to all the sounds around you.

Exhale for a count of 10. While you exhale concentrate on all the smells around you.

Open your eyes. You should feel calm and more centred.


Technique two: scribble down the “big mistakes”

Take 10 seconds to write down all the things you feel you did wrong.

This has two benefits. Firstly, it helps you to avoid making the same mistake in any other case, and secondly you can take that piece of paper and rip it up or screw it into a ball and throw it away.

As you destroy the paper, mentally let go of the mistakes.

Technique three: move on

Immediately start working on the next case-draw up your template and start filling it out. Doing something which requires lots of focus can help you completely forget the last case.


Practice these techniques and find what works for you.

Good luck!

Dr Eleanor Carey
Dr Eleanor Carey

El is a GP and Medical Educator working in the Whitsundays region. Her special interests are paediatrics, fertility, and antenatal care diabetes.

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