Our sixth block, officially known as Care of the Surgical Patient, is coming to a close already. I swear it just started the other day, and yet it’s already almost over. Like lots of specialist-placement blocks, it’s been a very self-motivated learning experience. This is something I wasn’t quite expecting about the course: as a student, we are given a framework of learning opportunities and then, depending on the block, we are expected to fill in some portion of our timetables by ourselves. This requires a very proactive student who isn’t afraid to get stuck in and talk to the right people, but can also take some getting used to as well.
I spent the first few weeks of the surgery block really enjoying vascular surgery (really, it’s very cool!) but then branched out to learning about other forms of surgery in the last couple of weeks. You really have to do this in the trust where we did our surgery block. I spent some time with colorectal teams and going to lots of follow-up clinics in other areas – breast surgery, urology, even the ENT (ear, nose and throat) clinic for an afternoon. It was absolutely fascinating to spend time in underexposed parts of medicine and surgery, and I’m acutely aware that these might be the last opportunities for a long time that any of us students get to see such a wide variety of disciplines.
One big surprise of this block was that, interestingly, it contains a lot less exposure to actual operations than I initially expected. This kind of makes sense, however. I guess that a lot of what we as students and foundation doctors have to know has far less to do with actual surgery and far more with knowing about conditions that would cause an operation to be necessary (and there are plenty), how to assess a patient immediately before an operation, how to treat them afterwards, and of course the anaesthesia care before, during and after as well. I don’t think foundation-year doctors even make it into theatre for operations, so that realm is basically reserved for registrars and consultants. Even though I found surgery really interesting to watch, I’m glad to have had the opportunity to gain knowledge in other related areas too as it feels much more relevant to our education at this level.
Soon we will be starting the acute block, which means that our seventh – and penultimate – block will begin. A new cohort of medical students (I remember when we were that young and excited!) will be starting and we’ll now be top of the heap. I’ve been interested in emergency medicine for a while, so this block is really exciting to me. Although we have our fair share of overnight and odd-hours shifts, I think it will be really accurate and a good opportunity for us to understand what emergency medicine is like – plus I want to see if it really is like 24 Hours in A&E! I am very excited about this next block and anticipate a lot of excitement.