The home stretch
Patients I have met through placement in hospital and GP practices are almost universally positive about having patients involved in their healthcare journey. “Everyone’s got to learn” is a refrain you become accustomed to hearing as a medical student after you thank these incredibly accommodating people for allowing you take their history, palpate and percussion them for the umpteenth time that day. I had never expected to encounter so much encouragement from patients who know that you are not there to improve their health, only to continue your own learning. It’s a selfless act which is undiminished despite the frequency of its occurrence.
I see patients taking a lot of pride in helping “the next generation of doctors” and commonly they will ask what point you are at in your studies. Last year (second year) I would tell them we were halfway to the beginning. The beginning of our medical careers felt such a long way off, like an island just over the horizon, not yet visible. This year, however, things are very different. We are now at the beginning of the end (of the beginning).
We have emerged from our home offices and library corners, having finished our student-selected research project and our now back on placement. The pace is fast and the teaching pragmatic. Everything feels like we are working towards being the best doctor we can after graduation. We are building on our theoretical and practical knowledge of the last two years and putting it into practice, honing our muscle memory for history taking, red flags, differentials and presenting cases.
Our first rotation has been Surgery. Tagging along with the general surgery team has been a fantastic experience. From seeing patients all over the hospital who have been admitted since yesterday (the ‘take’) to shadowing the senior house officer (SHO) in the emergency department, the work has an exhilarating momentum. We even ran a bit through the corridors on the way to an emergency surgery! Gaining this practical experience whilst keeping up with book work has been a challenge, especially as there has been so much to gain from seeing the common presentations of surgical patients and witnessing their management first hand. For me this type of learning has always worked best but I know I must put in the hours in the library to improve my overall knowledge and understanding.
Striking this balance is always a challenge but it is an important skill which we will need for our lives after graduation. Similarly, making sure that we have enough time for seeing friends and family, doing sports or other hobbies and spending quality time with our significant others is always traded against time on placement, wading through PassMedicine (an online question bank and medicine finals bible) and engaging with university society activities.
Final exams are almost exactly a year away and looming large, but it is an exciting time filled with five-week rotations through the different specialties. As the year progresses I will use this blog to keep you in the loop. It may be the beginning of the end of our course but there is still a lot to do!