Neonatal Resuscitation OSCE: Experience and Tips!

 As some of you may know, as part of healthcare degrees, most programmes have summative OSCE assessments. OSCE stands for Objective Structured Clinical Examination. The assessment is designed to test clinical skill performance and competence in a range of specific skills. It is a practical, real-world approach to learning and assessment. Content is standardised with a clear scoring method. 

Between the two degrees I have studied (Medicine and Midwifery), my OSCEs have been very different. In fact, the former were called OCAPEs, standing forOObjective Clinical and Practical Examination instead. I've discussed the differences before but from my experience, the Midwifery ones are much more practical and hands on, with limited scientific understanding or questioning. 

Making the OSCE for third year was a new compulsory commitment. Prior to this year, it was a formative in both first, second and third year. I now believe the first is formative and the second and third are summative. I voted for them to be changed to summative because I think they are such important elements and really crucial to our key practice skills. I think it's important that students have a knowledge of these areas and are able to perform them under pressure. The topics for each year are specific to each year and types:

  1. Medication and Hand Washing 
  2. Obstetric Emergencies: Breech, Shoulder Dystocia, Postpartum Haemorrhage or 
  3. Neonatal Resuscitation 

I went into the examination feeling very prepared and ready for the assessment. I always get a little nervous in the last half an hour, but I knew I was fully able to achieve full marks on this. I will talk a little bit about the specifics of how I prepared later on in this post, but I went in feeling confident. It was strange doing the exam during times of covid. We had to arrive in specific slots, with little interaction with us. We wore our uniforms, but also masks. Of course, since being in placement, this has become normal so didn't feel too unusual, but seeing staff in them did. 

We were allowed into the room, 5 minutes before our assessment time, where we were told to wash our hands, put on gloves and aprons and then make our way into the separate rooms. From there, cameras were set up to record the assessment to ensure assessors were accurate and standardised. Similarly, some had a second external marker present. We then had the scenario read to us, before the timer was started and we had 15 minutes to do showcase ourselves. Our results were emailed 2 weeks later. 

I thought I got all the criteria but was a little worried I would be marked down from my execution. Due to practicing on a different apparatus and having to wear gloves that were too big (plus nerves, probably), I dropped the bag-valve-mask on two occasions whilst doing inflation and ventilation breaths. Nevertheless, I was very pleased when I got 100%! 

In terms of the preparation, I started to really prepare just the day before. I had the day off and had originally planned to work the whole day, but only realistically spent 2 hours on it, and then a further hour the following morning. I did however, attend the two organised clinical skills sessions in February and September, which were both mandatory. My top 5 tips would be:

  • Watch a YouTube video. Our university creates their own and they are all available on YouTube free of charge. 
  • Use the mark scheme. If you have been given access to the mark scheme, use them! Read them lots, memorise them and go through them. 
  • Make it more personalised. The mark schemes tend to put the mandatory requirements at the start and then the "fluffy" topics at the end. I find the situation flows better and more realistically in a different order, so I work through it as I would in reality, rather than leave everything until the end. 
  • Practice with friends. This may be a little hard due to social distancing but working with friends is a great way to practice. Not only have you got someone watching you, but you can also watch others so revising is doubled!
  • Record yourself. This is another way to practice, but alone. By recording yourself, you can assess by watching back and similarly to above, watching yourself back, acts as another visual revision aid. 
  • Attend clinical skills sessions. The university organises mandatory sessions in clinical skills, but in normal circumstances, you can also book additional sessions by yourself or in groups to practice. This means you have access to the correct equipment, models and required materials. 

My biggest tip is don't panic! Don't overthink it. You will be amazing. Be confidence and have self-belief. Good luck!