‘Hello! My name is Hayley Taylor and I’m a 3rd year medical student.’ I can’t even begin to imagine how many times I’ve had to say this sentence after nearly 8 weeks on placement at the Royal Glamorgan hospital! I’m about to start the last week of my ‘oncology and surgery’ block and to be honest I feel mentally like I’ve been dragged through a hedge backwards!
Being in the hospital from 8-5 every day has been such a steep learning curve but I absolutely love it. It’s amazing how quickly you get used to doing things like taking blood from real people instead of plastic arms, and nipping down to theatre to catch the beginning of Mr so-and-so’s operation who you took a history off the other day… There are things that are not so great, such as getting up at 6 every morning, and occasionally getting turned away by everyone you’re meant to be shadowing, but I’ve found that most people are really happy to have you around as long as you show some interest in what they’re doing. Over the last two months I could tell you a whole host of things I’ve learnt, but there are a couple of main points that I will try to carry with me in future…
The first can apply to anyone in any situation, but is particularly key in a hospital- the importance of a good introduction. Whether it be a patient, consultant, ward clerk or nurse that you’re talking to, introducing yourself should be the first thing you do. I’ve found that a polite and friendly intro works wonders for getting things done! If no one knows who you are, they’re unlikely to teach you anything or trust you to carry out clinical skills, so you’re left standing in the middle of a busy ward like an absolute lemon, getting very hot under the collar because you feel so awkward and out of place.
This leads me onto the second lesson I’ve learned which was a bit more tricky for me – to have confidence! Going up to an intimidating consultant or a ward sister who is rushed off her feet is always nerve-racking as the last thing you want to do is get turned away or make their job any harder. As students though, the only way we can learn is on the job and they will have been in our shoes at some point, even if that was a very long time ago! Having a bit of self confidence has also allowed me to have some amazing opportunities this block, such as getting to assist in a couple of operations, presenting a case on a ward round to a group of consultants, and one time, a lovely anaesthetist helped me intubate a patient. On this particular day, I was watching a patient being put to sleep before their operation and the consultant turned round to me and said ‘do you want to pop some gloves on and have a go at putting the tube in?’. I was pretty much ready to do a runner as during the procedure you have complete control of that patient’s breathing and are essentially keeping them alive, but for some reason my mouth said ‘yes’ before I’d thought it through… He talked me through the whole process and although I didn’t do it perfectly first time, that opportunity was invaluable.
I was told before I started placement to ‘never say no to having a go’ as it’s the best way to learn, and it’s so true! I’ll be really sad to leave the Royal Glam, but I’m also excited to start my next block at University Hospital Wales after Christmas – I just have to remember to take some of my own advice.
A bit of fun too…
Although I’ve been really busy with placement and exam revision recently, I have managed to do some nice things too (a healthy work-life balance is key to my sanity!). My friends and I went on the train to see a fireworks display in Barry, and I performed with the university chamber orchestra in a concert in Swansea, where we put music to a silent WW1 film.
The best thing by far though was going to see Sterophonics at the student’s union – they were absolutely incredible, and we were so close to the front! The SU is such a good venue for live music and with the band being Welsh themselves the atmosphere was amazing!
If you want to see a bit more about what life is like as a medical student, S4C (the Welsh channel) has produced a documentary on Cardiff medical school called ‘Doctoriaid Yfory’, (Tomorrow’s Doctors). It features some welsh-speaking medical students, but thankfully iPlayer has a convenient subtitle button if like me you can’t understand a word they’re saying!