Studying at Imperial College can seem like the perfect recipe for falling ill. One part stress, two parts exhaustion and liberal dashes of damp, pollen and air pollution mean that lots of students – myself included – have to deal with being sick in London at some point.
Thankfully, the NHS is around to offer quality care, but navigating it can be tricky, as I’ve since learned. For example, many people think that the NHS is free but that’s not exactly true. It’s free at the point of care. This means that only the services you access at NHS clinics or hospitals are free.
This week I completed my final placement of medical school- my GP placement. As if this wasn’t scary enough, the placement was outside of London…
I am not a native Londoner, but having been at Imperial for 6 years feel quite at home here- I have the commuter walk, grumpy sigh and tube stare. Having completed all of my clinical placements so far in London, I was apprehensive to be taken to Boscombe, near Bournemouth for my final placement.
How do people travel without the tube? I mused the night before. What about shops, they all close at 5pm? Do they even have big hospitals?
Living in London is busy. Studying at Imperial is manic. Resting does not come easily.
This week I found myself challenged to rest. Everyone works better when they take breaks as well as study, but I have recently found that this is easier said than done! I find it takes a lot of confidence to be able to take a good break without worrying about work. This is particularly true in the run up to exams.
Everywhere I seem to look people are working. I try to be disciplined and take breaks, but find it hard to relax. I start thinking about work, worrying about things I need to do or I simply cannot sit still!
So this week the biggest challenge was being confronted with death. Sounds strange, but I hadn’t expected it that morning, so I was hit hard.
Of course I’ve seen death before in medical school- the cadavers we use for dissection, old patients on the ward who pass away quietly in their sleep and death certification. This however was different as it was unexpected- someone younger who yesterday was walking around fine, then suddenly today they have gone. It wasn’t predicted or even suspected.
Other than the suddenness of it all, I was also struck by the sadness as the team slowly realised they had done all they possibly could but that it simply wasn’t enough.
Over the last year I have started to understand how non-medical students view medical students. This has been very interesting, enlightening and somewhat frustrating at times, in the form of debates over the dinner table to overhearing conversations about medical students in SAFB (I mean if you are going to voice your opinion you could pick a better building to sit in than the medics building!).
So as I prepare to spend some time with non-medics, I thought I would write a blog to dispel any myths about Imperial medical students.
“Medics never do any work”
This was the first opinion that I heard about medics and started a long dinner table discussion.
So after just finishing a manic 3 week attachment at one of the busiest A&Es in London I thought I’d reflect on what I’ve learnt.
1. Always look before crossing the road
After seeing a number of patients hit by cars/lorries/buses/bikes I have realised the damage they can do and just how common incidents are. Obviously not all of them were avoidable but taking the time to look properly before crossing the road could save you a lot of trouble. If you are from the rest of Europe remember to look the other way (we drive on the other side!)
I spent all three weeks being obsessively extra careful when crossing the road, knowing that my consultant would really not appreciate me being the trauma patient!
On Saturday The Class of 2016 ICSM came together for a grand night of cheer and nostalgia: the Shrove Tuesday Final Year Dinner (STFYD) 2016. Joined by many tutors, doctors, lecturers and hospital consultants, roughly 400 students started the celebrations with a sparkling welcoming reception, moving on to a delicious three-course meal with a variety of speeches and advice from guest speakers and students, the highlight of which was the launch of the STFYD video. The group were then joined by many from the year below for more fun as The Pseudopseudohypoparathyroidisms (the STFYD band) took to the stage for a time of dancing, photos and pick a mix!
This week I have been challenged by the dispute over junior doctor contracts.
This is a thorny issue, and I am not writing to argue my corner. However, I have been quite challenged by how some of the information has been presented in the press. I know that the newspaper headlines don’t represent the general public, but like many I have been saddened by the ongoing debate.
I was therefore massively encouraged to see members of the public handing out badges, flyers and information outside my placement hospital. They were not there to argue about the issue, but to provide information to fully inform the public of the facts and to show their doctors that they are valued.
This week the 3rd year medical students sit their first clinical year exam: Ethics and Law, and I was reminded of sitting the same exam a few years ago.
For many studying ethics and law seems a bit strange. The course involves studying ethical issues in medicine from a range of different viewpoints. This can be great at times, with lots of discussion and interaction, but can also be rather challenging as you begin to work through your own viewpoint and why you hold it. At the time I remember this seemed more challenging and exacerbating than anything else as I desperately tried to justify my viewpoint on a range of hot topics.
This week the biggest challenge was being confronted by an angry/upset patient.
I have been involved in difficult, emotional, challenging situations on placement before but this has always been as part of the medical team. This week I was confronted by an angry and upset patient on my own. The wait to see a doctor was long, so I was asked to work my way through the patients in advance, taking a brief history, blood tests and other simple investigations to speed up the results and the wait when the doctor managed to see them. For the most part it was no trouble, but one patient was particularly distressed by the wait and made their feelings known to me as well as asking many questions about my role and the department’s system.