In 2010, Clare Andrews, who was a third year student at the time, came up with the thrilling idea of launching a pilot mentoring scheme at our medical school. She named her project, Peer Assisted Learning Scheme (or PALS). Clare felt the need of a support scheme within the medical school to provide tailored help – from medical students to medical students. She desired to help younger students, who were struggling with the course and feeling overwhelmed by the new environment and transition from high school. To help these students out, Clare anticipated a program to provide both academic and emotional support within a confidential, one-on-one relationship. In this scheme, 1st years were free to join PALS if they wanted to be paired with a 2nd or 3rd year – their very own mentor.
I was immediately excited about the prospects of the scheme and joined Claire’s enthusiasm for PALS. We started to train 2nd and 3rd year medics to become mentors. Trained mentors provide support to younger medical students with the ultimate goal of improving their grades. This support may entail going over lecture slides, teaching time management skills, or helping the mentee to think of new ways to study, etc. However, some mentees prefer using the time with their mentor to talk about more personal things, e.g. being homesick, or feeling overwhelmed with the course. The mentor-mentee pair meets within their free time and
it is up to them to decide where and when to meet . PALS is entirely voluntary and both, mentees and mentors, are free to leave the scheme at any point.
Last year, we have expanded the mentoring scheme into a society. The name, PALS, has stayed the same, but has since changed to stand for Peer Assisted Learning Society. PALS offers very popular clinical skills sessions and workshops in study skills and exam technique (but I hope you have already heard of some of these events by now). Currently, we are running PALS in its second year and we have 19 mentor-mentee pairs under the scheme. Throughout the last four semesters, we have received a lot of positive feedback from former and current students who are involved in PALS and we hope to continue PALS throughout future generations of St Andrews medics. If you feel like becoming involved in PALS – give us a shout as we plan to set up a new PALS team for next academic year before the summer.
Caterina Dal Col, PALS President