Problem Based Learning

Problem based learning (PBL) is a popular method of learning, currently used by most health professional courses in the UK.

The aim of PBL is for you to read through a complex and broad series of information, to identify areas of interest and areas you would like to explore further, in order to further your knowledge of specific topics, through self-directed learning.

 The questions our mentors have provided offer ideas of topics to explore and are written in three streams for aspiring medics, dentists and veterinarians; focus on all three or simply what interests you!

  • Remeber you can leave a comment if you have any questions and we will be sure to answer them.
  • We will  be discussing and answering the PBL cases in the VMS meeting.

Mental Health

THE Dental PBL Case

Mental Health is extremely relevant and important due to high burnout, depression and suicide rates in the Dental profession. 

You are a dentist in practice.

You notice a colleague over the last few months has been coming in early, working over their lunch breaks, and staying late to complete their notes and other admin every day.

They seem to be lethargic all the time and are distancing themselves from everyone else at the practice.


  1. What is burnout and how might it affect someone?
  2. Name some protective factors to burnout
  3. Name some risk factors to burnout
  4. What is depression?
  5. What ways may burnout and mental health issues be prevented?
    • What might they be suffering from/have the potential to suffer from?
    • How would you approach this situation and make sure that your colleagues gets any help they may need? 
  7. What steps will you take as a dental student to maintain good mental health and prevent against burnout?
  1. Research the following Support Services available to support dentists:
  • Confidental, a helpline offering emotional support for dentists from fellow dentists
  • Dentists in England experiencing mental ill health or addiction problems can seek support from the NHS Practitioner Health Programme, a recently-launched service available to the profession regardless of whether or not they practice under an NHS contract. 


THE Medic PBL Case

You are a student on work experience sitting in on a GP consultation when Ali, a 20-year-old engineering student, comes into the room. You notice that he moves slowly, and when he speaks to you, he speaks quietly and rarely lifts his eyes. The reason why Ali has come to the GP today is because he has been experiencing some vomiting and abdominal pain over the last couple of weeks. 

 After questioning from the GP, Ali mentions that he is finding university work very difficult while living at home with his parents, and his relationship with his long-term girlfriend ended four months ago. His main lockdown pastime was playing video games with his friends, but he says that he no longer gets the same enjoyment out of this that he used to. Ali is no longer sleeping very well, and he says that he is waking up a couple of hours earlier than normal and being unable to go back to sleep. He appears to have a negative view of his situation and does not see things improving. This has been going on for a few months. 

The GP tells Ali that he is suffering from depression and uses the Hamilton Depression Rating Scale to stratify it as moderate to severe. They assess Ali’s level of risk and start him on citalopram, mentioning that it may take 3-4 weeks for him to notice any benefit. Ali is concerned about starting anti-depressants, as he has heard that there are side effects, but the GP reassures him. They also refer him for cognitive behavioural therapy, which Ali agrees to try. He is given the phone number for the Samaritans and the local crisis team, and his is told to ring them up or attend the emergency department if he feels he needs to. 

  1. What are the different symptoms of depression? (do you have to have low mood?) 
  2. What are some risk factors for depression? 
  3. What is the difference between low mood and depression? 
  4. What physical effects can depression have on the body? 
  5. Is depression linked with any other health conditions? 
  6. Are there any other questions that you would like to ask Ali to see if he is at risk of harm? 
  7. What is the Mental Health Stepped Care Model?  
  8. How does cognitive behavioural therapy work?
  9. Who would Ali be assessed by in the emergency department if he turned up? 
  10. Challenge: How would you counsel Ali about starting antidepressants? 

 In the UK and Ireland, Samaritans can be contacted on 116 123


THE Vet PBL Case

Mental Health is a hugely important discussion taking place within the veterinary profession. Veterinary is known to have a high suicide rate and there have been multiple initiatives set out to help combat this. Below are some important mental health charities or initiatives to be aware of.

Often vets are in a position where they need to be aware of other people’s mental health be it colleagues or clients. Below is a scenario which could be presented to you at a university MMI station, be prepared to give answers and justifications to your action plan. 

You notice a vet colleague is repeatedly staying late after consults to type up notes and phone clients and they are becoming more and more disengaged from the team. They have suffered from ‘burnout’ previously and had time off for this. 

You are worried a similar burnout episode is imminent, how would you go about dealing with this situation and ensuring your colleague got the help they need?

Please research each of the them individually and be able to define what they do, who they help and examples of the work they have carried out.

  1. Mind Matters Initiative, RCVS
  2. VetLife Charity
  3. Not One More Vet (NOMV) Movement

Finally, as a student studying veterinary medicine, what actions will you put into place to ensure you look after your own mental health? List 3 things you would make sure to implement into your routine. 


Top 10 Tips for Panel Interviews

10 Top tips for panel interviews   Interviews always seemed so daunting for me as an applying student. I knew it had been an achievement to even get this for. Your whole application journey of work experience, volunteering, personal statements, UCAT, BMAT and in...

Top 10 Tips for MMI Interviews

Top 10 Tips for MMI Interviews: Interview Season has arrived! I am sure you are all thinking about how you can ace your upcoming MMI Interviews – well fear not! Having gone through the process myself in the past year, here are my top 10 tips to do exactly that:  ...