Our post-finals elective period is six weeks long, and we’re right in the middle of it. It’s going well – I’m seeing loads of notifications from social media about my coursemates in all sorts of exotic places around the world and I have no doubt that lots of medical experience is being gained regardless of location. After the stress of finals, it’s been a wonderful opportunity for us to experience clinical care in a new surrounding.
We have the option to spend all six weeks in one placement, or we can split it into two – application-approval dependent, of course! Submitting the different forms was a module in and of itself! I have elected to split my elective, and have just finished the first half, which was three weeks in an A&E department in outer London. It’s been really interesting and eye-opening. Our acute block gives us some exposure to A&E (majors, minors and resuscitation) but we only have five or six shifts over six weeks. The great thing about the elective was that it allowed me to spend time doing exactly what I liked and doing it every day.
The doctors – and all of the healthcare professionals, for that matter – in the A&E department were all very helpful and lovely and were keen for me to learn. A typical day involved me turning up in mid-morning and finding a doctor to shadow for the day – usually an F2 or a reg. I would choose a patient from the list of new arrivals, take a history and do an exam, present back to the doctor and then we would see the patient together to talk about investigations and management. It was very similar to the acute block, but as I became more stuck in with the team I found that I was taken under the wings of the doctors and taken very seriously. It was a nice feeling of semi-autonomy. Occasionally I would spend the days in the resus department helping the nurses and stationary paramedics (qualified paramedics who spend time stabilising patients in hospital instead of driving around in ambulances), and it was very good to help with the most acute cases. I really loved A&E and am looking forward to my placement there in the Foundation Programme.
One thing stuck in my mind from this placement: a young patient presented with complications from a serious and notifiable disease, for which his mother chose not to get him vaccinated when he was a young child because of unfounded risks which have since been widely debunked. I found it very unfortunate that diseases, which we think of as relegated to our grandparents’ generation, are still affecting people in our very rich society. Although parents have the choice as to whether or not to have their children vaccinated, if they choose not to then they have to accept that their children very well might contract life-threatening diseases later in life and live with the complications. I had never seen this particular disease in a person before, but I don’t think I’ll forget it anytime soon.