Whilst I have loved my month off after completing my medical finals, I now feel as though I am ready to go back. Watching daytime TV has been great, but I do feel as though I now need a new challenge to give me motivation and drive. Lucky, then, that this week, we started our Assistantship block. I don’t think I really understood the Assistantship block until this point. Essentially, the block is where you are paired with a current Foundation Year 1 doctor, who you “assist” and help in their daily duties. Medical School is quite unlike most other degrees – it is both vocational and academic but is purely preparing you for one job. For example, my previous degree, History, was solely academic and I had to use the transferable skills I obtained to find my vocation (which turned out to be totally unrelated to History!). Medicine instead teaches you the academics and vocation of being a doctor, but we all go on to do the same job afterwards – that of a Foundation Doctor. So, in addition to knowing about diseases, being able to do clinical skills, we also have to know the practicalities of the job. So far, for example, we may know that a patient needs a CT scan. However, how do you practically make that happen in the workplace? Where are the forms and what information needs to go on them? How do we prepare the patient? The Assistantship block aims to polish these more practical skills.
The Assistantship is 8 weeks long and during this time we are paired with a Foundation Doctor in one of the local hospitals. I am placed at the George Eliot Hospital in Nuneaton for this block. I am really happy about this, because I have so far really enjoyed my time at the George Eliot as all of the members of staff are supportive and it a smaller hospital so hopefully will be an easier place to start. I am attached to Upper GI Surgery for the first 4 weeks and then Acute Medicine for the last 4 weeks. I am really happy to have these attachments as my first doctor job is in Upper GI surgery, so hopefully I will have some experience before starting work. During the Assistantship, we have a list of tasks that we need to work through with our attached Foundation Doctor. These include various things such as putting on PPE, taking bloods, giving injections, writing prescriptions (not signing) and verifying deaths. These tasks are the day-to-day tasks that most junior doctors will be doing so it is vital we become familiar and confident at completing them. Of course, we are not yet GMC registered, so all tasks are supervised by our attached Foundation Doctor.
The first two days of the assistantship, we had lectures covering some common topics that junior doctors need to know about. The lectures covered things such as death certification, infection control, and management of major bleeding. In comparison to our lectures previously, these lectures were very practically focused, covering how to manage these situations in hospital, with less emphasis on the theory underpinning these topics. I have really enjoyed being back in hospital and seeing patients again, with the added excitement that I will soon be working full time in hospital. This week I’ve already learned how to do discharge paperwork and how to document on the ward rounds, and I feel as though over the course of the block, I will hopefully become comfortable with the day-to-day tasks of a junior doctor so that when I do start work, I feel more confident and less overwhelmed. Tune in to my next blog, when I will give more updates about how my assistantship block is going!