Another two more weeks of our GP block have passed by. Our block is 5 weeks long and each week we have some days at our GP practice and some days of online tutorials. Every Thursday we have online tutorials by the medical school tutors which focus on communication skills and also common conditions seen in GP. The communication skills sessions involve what are called “simulated” patients, who are actors hired by the medical school to pretend to be a patient. You treat them like any other patient and talk to them about their medical problems and other things. The communication part of this comes in in that with these patients the task we have to do with these patients is to break bad news to them - so tell them a test result came back abnormal or the cancer has returned. Then they are trained to react in a certain way – so they may get upset or angry – and you have to respond and deal with their issues. This can be really challenging and sometimes emotionally difficult, but it is much better to practice these conversations in a safe simulated environment before we ever have to do it for real.
We’ve been really lucky with our GP surgery as they are very keen to teach and get us doing consultations on our own. We speak to a patient and decide what to do, only running our findings and plan past the GP to check it is correct and that they are happy. The GP is always there for support, but it is really satisfying to be able to tell the patient what is wrong and what you think should be done, and for the GP to totally agree. More than any other block, I feel like a doctor now – GP is very busy and almost feels like working full time, with patients specifically booking in to see the medical student. That responsibility of “this is your patient to look after” is new, terrifying, and affirming. This, after all, is why I started this journey 3+ years ago. It feels so rewarding to be able to reassure the patient and offer them a solution or plan to deal with their issues.
This coming Friday we have an online academic day about applying for the UK Foundation Programme. Basically, medical school isn’t the end of training for doctors. Exactly the opposite - graduating from medical school is just the beginning. New doctors apply to and work for two years as part of the Foundation Programme. These are special posts which are designed for a new doctor and the aim is to develop all of the skills learned at medical school and become a confident, capable doctor. As I am in my final year for med school, I have increasingly found myself thinking about the next steps and thinking about some of the decisions I will need to make when applying. The main decision is which foundation school to apply for. The foundation schools cover geographical areas and often cover several hospitals. I was born in the Midlands, I did my Undergraduate degree at Birmingham, worked in the city for 2 years before medical school and of course Warwick Medical School is in the Midlands. Part of me wants to try somewhere else now – but I have ties to the Midlands which mean that I can’t really move away, so I will probably stay around here for foundation. This also has the advantage of not having to get used to a new city while also getting used to being a new doctor at the same time. Some areas are more competitive to get into than others – for example London is super competitive to get a place at, but the Midlands aren’t too bad so hopefully I have a shot!