Clinical Week 1

Beilinson_Hospital_ward_1950I’ve survived the first clinical week. After two years incarceration in mostly lectures and the recent week of back to back induction talks, my patient hungry classmates and I were released into hospital wards.

However, the new found freedom we’ve been craving has sometimes left many of us feeling like spare parts, trailing behind junior (F1) doctors and not knowing enough to help properly yet. We’re dressed as doctors, reinforced by shiny new stethoscopes around our necks but with little experience of using them.

I’m not beating myself up as it’s only the first week and we’re still discovering hospital protocols but so far a good recipe has been to i) find a cooperative doctor ii) be nice to nurses and iii) find friendly looking patients who will consent to histories and examinations.

Me: “Hello Mr X, my name is MSL and I’m a medical student. Could I talk to you about why you’re in hospital?”
Patient: “Sure doctor”
Me: “I’m actually still a medical student”
Patient: “Oh, OK”
Me: “So Mr X, why are you here today”
Patient: “Well I’ve had this pain for 3 days now doctor”
Me: “I’m a medical student
Patient: “OK doctor”

My initial concern about being mistaken for a qualified doctor is semi valid for some patients but is wasted on staff who look me up and down and spot my “Medical Student” ID badge, Oxford Handbook of Clinical Medicine (aka cheese and onion) or notice me waiting around awkwardly. Actual doctors have a pager clipped to their belt/handbag and hurry around efficiently with patient lists in their hands. The pager is like a little time bomb except nobody knows when it is going to go off. Consultants walk around in expensive shoes and suits – no pager.

So far so good, not many pointy questions and no humiliation in front of patients yet but I did hear a rumour that a consultant made one of the doctors cry.


5 thoughts on “Clinical Week 1

  1. Good luck this year, I’m sure you will love it! Don’t worry, I’m approaching the end of 3rd year and every time we switch to a new ward I feel lost all over again. But I completely agree with your recipe… and don’t be afraid to ask questions! I’ve learned quickly that as long as you are polite and eager to learn, asking questions will only open more doors. Allied health staff are a fountain of information too 🙂

  2. What kind of ward are you working on? I find that patients are generally nice and welcoming, unless they’re in a lot of pain, because they have nothing better to do

    1. Thanks NH. It’s an adult general medical ward. I’ve seen patients with all kinds of conditions related to abdo, respiratory, C-V and neuro. I just use my common sense really and generally don’t approach patients in pain or those who are eating sleeping or have visitors. (Somedays this narrows it down a lot! But there’s always something else to do.) Agree with you, I’m genuinely surprised how nice and co-operative the patients are in letting me take histories and examine them.

      1. I suppose that’s exactly what you’re after as a student – a wide range that stretches your brain! Have you have any crash calls to your ward yet? It’s nice that your pts have visitors! On the ward I volunteer on, people come from all over the country, which means a very high level of medical care, but also it means that visitors often can’t come regularly, if at all – and that leads to sad, lonely patients..

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