Tag Archives: medical students

So Near, So Far

I am becoming convinced that the sole purpose of the last week of term is to slowly suck the life out of all medical students. This is Academic Week. It is five days of shivering in lecture theatres with inadequate central heating while being talked at about things that we already know.

Yesterday, we sat through an afternoon that would perhaps have been useful if we had had it in Year 1, Week 1. Not Year 4, Week 16. The unfortunate soul who had been asked to deliver a lecture on basic immunology opened with a statement that nothing he planned to say would have any relevance at all to our exams. In a reference to Th1 and Th2 cells, he said doubtfully that some of us might have heard of those. I’d be surprised if more than half of the year was awake — especially after he said out loud that we wouldn’t miss much if we went to sleep. I think most of us who stayed awake did so only because it was too bloody cold to go to sleep.

Today, three separate people referred to the Disability Discrimination Act as though it still exists. I am probably not the only one who thinks that a conversation about disability law would be more valuable if it was had in the context of the actual legislation.

I live in hope that the rest of the week will be less painful, but I am not holding my breath.

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Posted by on December 14, 2010 in Blog, Medicine


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Looming Deadlines

I’d had wonderful plans for this SSM. I’ve not got a proper obs and gynae block until last thing in fifth year, and, although my SSM is supposed to be in gynae oncology, the timetable is really not too terribly busy and I had all these grand ideas that I’d try to at least see some of the routine gynae and go to an antenatal clinic and maybe try to get into a delivery. I thought that it might make me less likely to panic come next January. Of course, I’ve done none of those things and now find myself with a week to go and hand-in dates approaching. My flatmate and I had made all sorts of promises to ourselves about getting work done on Monday night, but between the snow and the twinkly twinkly lights that turned into making hot chocolate and watching The Holiday. It may not have been the most productive way to spend an evening, but it made us almost stupidly happy.

All good things must pause, though, and this weekend is time to knuckle down. I’m a quarter of the way into my first case report (of three), have nine journal articles on vulval carcinoma open on my laptop, and a scribble-covered notepad on my desk.

It’s not like I’ve never written 6000+ words in six days before…

Now playing: Glenn Close – With One Look from Sunset Boulevard

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Posted by on December 4, 2010 in Blog, Medicine


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See One, Do One… Teach One?

In one of my earlier rotations this year, I was landed with a work experience student for a bit.

Really, it’s more accurate to say that she was landed with me.

I am fairly obviously not even a little bit qualified for such a thing. I can’t tell anyone what it’s like to be a doctor, not really, and sixteen-year-olds do not go on work experience to find out what it’s like to be a medical student. If they’re anything like most of us when we were their age, sixteen-year-olds go on work experience harbouring the fond delusion that they might get to assist on brain surgery. So far as I can gather, her consultant thought that she’d learn more about what she might be getting herself into if she shadowed a junior doctor, and the junior doctor followed that thought to its logical conclusion and thought that she’d learn more about what she might be getting herself into if she shadowed, well, me. It might be true. It might even have given her something a little bit different to talk about in interviews and I hope it did.

On a purely selfish note, I do admit that it was nice to not be the most junior person on the ward round for once.

Still, watching me look lost and useless isn’t what I’d call the most inspiring sight. I was in my first five minutes on a new ward when she joined me — ‘lost and useless’ isn’t an exaggeration, the poor girl spent a decent chunk of time that afternoon watching me spin slowly in circles in the middle of the treatment room as I bemoaned an apparent lack of syringes. And even if I eventually stopped looking lost and useless, it’s not as though I was empowered to do much with her. I showed her how to take bloods and do venflons, and I showed her how not to do blood gases and demonstrated the art of giving yourself a needlestick injury with a heparinised needle. In spite of my best efforts to find her someone interesting to be with for a few hours, she ended up at one point in a tutorial on diabetic emergencies that included things that went over the top of my head.

It’s been a long time since I did my work experience, and an even longer time since I was sixteen. I don’t know if I had much of an idea what I was trying to achieve with it, back then The clearest memory I have is of the SHO who tried valiantly to teach me some radiology, asking what was abnormal about the CXR of a patient who was coming into outpatient clinic. “Well, I’m sure that this big thing in the middle of the lung probably isn’t supposed to be there, so I think he might have cancer,” I said, with the absolute certainty possessed only by someone who knows nothing but has a shiny new batch of good GCSEs and is therefore convinced of her brilliance. Of course, my brilliance was undermined somewhat by the fact that I was pointing at the left heart border. I tell this story to demonstrate that no matter how ridiculous you think you might sound, there is always someone who has said something stupider than whatever it is that you’re about to say.

In any case, it got me thinking: what do you guys want to get out of your work experience? I’m asking mostly out of curiosity; after all, I don’t expect personally to be faced with that question again for at least the next few years. I would really like to know, though. I feel like if I don’t know what I wanted from my work experience (and if I don’t know the answer to that now, I never will), then I’m hardly going to be in a position to make assumptions about what other people want from theirs.
Now playing: Bruch – Violin Concerto No. 1 in G minor, Op. 26 – 2nd movement

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Posted by on November 25, 2010 in Blog, Medicine


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No Place Like Home

Since my last post, I’ve returned from my rural placement and I’m back in civilisation.

I’m thinking about applying there for FY1, actually. It’s a pretty part of the world, even though I am not  remotely what you’d call a country person, and a lovely hospital with good teaching and some of the nicest people I’ve ever worked with. I loved my time there.  It’s just that  I love having my bed back more. I’ve only been home since Friday, and I’m still revelling in the luxury of having my bed, my bookshelves, my cathedral, and my spice rack be less than a two hour drive away.

In my previous block, I was commuting halfway across Scotland on a daily basis.

It is by no means an exaggeration to say that the most exciting part of my current SSM is that my main hospital is a ten minute journey from my house.
Now playing: Brahms – Symphony No. 2 In D Major

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Posted by on November 11, 2010 in Blog, Medicine


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The Hardest to Wipe Away

One of the loveliest ladies on my ward held onto my hand yesterday as our consultant talked to her about if she wanted all the stops to be pulled out if anything should happen or if she wanted to have a DNR order signed. I couldn’t do anything but let her think and talk and stroke my hand.

Afterwards, all I wanted to do was sit down in the middle of the ward and cry out all my tears.

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Posted by on October 30, 2010 in Blog, Medicine


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Hurry Up and Wait

In general, being a medical student has a lot to do with standing around, waiting for someone to turn up or something to happen. It’s nothing to do with clinical knowledge and everything to do with having a good pair of shoes. I’ve been fairly lucky so far this year in that I’ve not had to do much standing on a ward like a spare part. I avoided it in my last hospital mostly by being willing to write blood forms, chase blood results, and do as many venflons and ABGs as needed doing.

I had a few grumpy days at the end of last week. I had very little to do, even after asking for jobs, and the days seemed to be passing very slowly and I couldn’t wait to get back to Glasgow. I knew that I had two days left on that ward at the beginning of this week, and I was honestly kind of dreading it.

The corollary to what I said at the beginning is that there’s no such thing as a steady stream of work — it’s either standing around looking useless or being completely snowed under. So, cue Monday, when I learned that the reason I’d not seen anything of my consultant last week was because he was out of the country and that he was determined to make up for having been away for three of my five days on cardiology. We began our week with a seven hour ward round (SEVEN HOURS!), and on Tuesday he asked me to go to day surgery and then to his outpatient clinic. I’ve learned more cardiology in the last two days than I did in the three years before that. I’ve spent the last two nights writing up a portfolio case that was due today and eventually finished at one o’clock this morning. The only way to get out of the hospital at that time of night is through A&E, and I must have looked quite a state as I bobbed and weaved my way through the department.

I much prefer being busy, and if I were given the option would always choose snowed under rather than standing around. Very little gets me down more than a slowly ticking clock — even in my now thankfully ex-job as a public transport information giving person I was always much happier on days when there were strikes or floods or timetable changes or Christmas and the phone never stopped ringing. I’ve been back to being my normal happy self since Monday.

However, my portfolio case is finished and assessed, as of an hour ago, and I’ve got no more deadlines for a few days, so I’ve planned an evening off. Truthfully, I’ve been planning it in my head since I got up yesterday morning and I’m looking forward to my night of tea and toast and crap telly so much that it almost borders on the pathetic, but sometimes it’s the little things.

Now playing: Antonin Dvorak – Symphony No.9 in E Minor

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Posted by on October 27, 2010 in Blog, Medicine



Prayer for Medical Students

Today is October 18th. It is the date in the Christian calendar on which we celebrate St Luke, patron saint of doctors and surgeons.


Father, you have called us to be your servants and we have said yes.

God of great joy, we find you in all the thousands of moments that make our lives joyful.
In the times of happiness, your Son celebrated and was glad.
Remind us to find joy in our lives and our work, and that to do what we do is a privilege that should never be taken for granted.
And rejoice with us in triumph — in the laughing and hugging of each hard-fought victory.
For you are in the singing and the dancing, and our gladness burns with the fire of your Holy Spirit.

God of love, we ask for blessings on our loved ones.
As he did the things that he had been sent to do, your Son knew the support of his family and friends.
We offer thanksgiving for the people who support us on this path that we have chosen,
and for those who walk it with us.
For through them and through you, we know that we are loved and we are blessed.

God of the lonely, we turn to you to know that we are not alone.
In that most awful hour, all his friends had gone away and your Son cried out to you.
Help us to recognise the warmth of your presence,
especially in the times and places when we feel that there is nobody else.
For you are the one who understands when no one else can.

God of the waiting, wait with us.
In the darkness, your Son waited for what was to come.
Be near us as we keep watch over the people who need you more than we do,
as they wait for life, for death, for hope, for despair.
For with you, we wait for the promise of a new dawn.

God of humanity, we pray for our own humanity.
You sent your Son to live among us so that we might truly know what it means to be human.
Grant us the understanding to see the sorrow that lurks beneath thoughtnessness, the fear hidden by indifference, and the despair that is expressed as anger,
and give us the grace and compassion to see people, not diagnoses.
For if we look, we will find the very best of you in all humans everywhere.

God of our many understandings, we look for you not in cold churches and empty tombs,
but in hospitals and hospices, ambulances and emergency departments, wards and operating theatres.
And in these places, you come to be our strength and our salvation.



Posted by on October 18, 2010 in Blog, Medicine


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