Trust me I’m a medical student

Posted by Kate Powell

Only two weeks of the term left and after finishing my first placement bock it already feels like the Christmas break is here! I can’t believe just how much has been fitted just into one term!

As a third year, we have finally been released from the lecture theatre and now spend a lot of our course time out on placement in hospitals all across Wales. After just one term on placement I have found that I’ve learned more about medicine than I had done over the previous 2 years! I have started my first placement learning about acute and trauma medicine, in UHW Cardiff. Next term, I spend time at the Princess of Wales hospital in Bridgend learning about oncology and surgery. For my final placement of third year I get to break out of South Wales and venture up north to Wrexham to spend 8 weeks in a GP practice and learn about chronic diseases.

My first day on placement in the hospital I was nervous as I didn’t know what to expect. Would I be in the way of all of these busy people working? I was with 4 other students who were feeling the same so at least we were all in the same boat. However, one of the junior doctors introduced themselves to us and explained exactly how the department worked and said that we could ask them anything we needed throughout the week. I began to feel more relaxed about being in the hospital, after all, this is what I want to do in the future and so I totted off on my first ward round.

Half-way through the day a nurse came over and asked if one of us medical students wanted to have a go at cannulating a gentleman in bed 11 as he was difficult to cannulate. I thought, well, this is why I am on placement, to learn on the job, and I volunteered. As I prepared the kit, I realised I had not actually put a cannula in a real person before – I had cannulated plenty of plastic arms in the clinical skills lab – but this was not the same. Thankfully, all of the communication skills, I’d thought were a pain learning at the time, had kicked in and put both myself and the patient at ease, such that I got the cannula in first time! (I was more relieved than excited to be honest!)

Throughout the 8 placement weeks, I had the opportunity to take histories off so many interesting patients and improve my examination skills thanks to the doctors who helped to teach me the tricks of the trade. I have also spent time in theatre with some fantastically skilled surgeons – this has been a great experience for me as surgery is something I am interested in pursuing in the future! But my favourite experience of the whole block has been following a lovely patient through their admission to hospital, through to discharge and follow up care – it has added a personal touch to my learning and is an amazingly unique experience!

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