11 May 2017

medicine: final year placement reviews

Now that final year is out of the way, I thought it would be apt to do a mini review of each placement for the medics out there who might be interested.

Assistantship Surgery

For this one, gynaecology was my specialty and though an unconventional surgical specialty (most of my friends had general, urology, colorectal, upper gastrointestinal, etc), I learnt an awful lot. Obstetrics and Gynaecology is a potential career path I may choose to go down and the team were just wonderful and friendly. The high turnover of patients meant that there was plenty of practice writing discharge summaries and practice with practical procedures. One particular highlight was taking blood from a patient who confessed she was a difficult patient and that it usually took people three or four tries before they were successful. I somehow managed to do it on the first attempt which was a lovely feeling!

The main brunt of this placement were daily, swift ward rounds; many discharge summaries and copious opportunities to take blood, insert cannulas and do other practical procedures. One of my favourite placements of this year without a doubt.

Assistantship Medicine

Coming off surgery where ward rounds lasted one or two hours at the most, it was a shock to go back to ward rounds that would last at least three and a half hours. Being on a Care of the Elderly ward, it was a good opportunity to revise general medical conditions and also learn more about the social side of things that often keep the patients in for longer than we would like. Again, plenty of discharge summaries, note writing and practical procedures. The team were lovely which always makes a difference but the five weeks were enough for me to confirm that being a hospital medic is not for me.

Assistantship General Practice

Before starting this placement, I was dreading it. General practice has a reputation amongst students for not being the most glamorous specialty and I suppose that is largely true. As GPs, one has to know which problems are serious enough to warrant a referral to a specialist and which ones can be safely managed within their remit in the community. Having spent five weeks in a well-ordered practice in a deprived area of South London, I got a feel for just how difficult it is being a GP.

Seeing a high volume of patients each week meant that I got to hone my history taking and examination skills within a limited appointment slot. The senior doctors encouraged me to come up with management plans and in the end, I ended up really enjoying my time there. In fact, I even kind of miss it! However, unlikely to be the career for me.

Accident and Emergency

Adrenaline pumping through the veins is a feeling I always try and seek so the Emergency Department was one I was looking forward to setting foot in. However, the only area that really appealed to me as 'Resus' - the part where the most critical patients are as the other areas felt largely like an extension of General Practice. Not hating on General Practice - just that I'm looking for something a bit more acute and exciting.

Critical Care and Anaesthetics

The best placement of my final year. Wearing scrubs everyday meant silks, wools and delicate fabrics could be worn with reckless abandon as they would only be worn in and out of the hospital! There is the perfect mix of having to know a bit about everything, the chance to do practical procedures and also the patient contact was still present within the field of Anaesthetics. I loved this placement so much, it is likely that this'll be the pathway chosen in a few years' time. At the moment, this list is acute care, anaesthetics and surgery so we'll see if things change!

Overall, I loved final year. It felt much more like being a doctor and it has helped me rule out and rule in specialties a little bit more - a list that'll inevitably chop and change in the near future. My advice is to just throw yourself into every single placement. Even if I don't think the placement will be the one for me long term, my goal is still to make the most of it - after all, if I don't decide to go into it, this'll be my only experience of it ever again! It's a privilege to be able to see a bit of most fields within Medicine and nothing gets taken for granted, at least not with me. :)

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