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March 24, 2020

Coro NO a

I tried to go for a pun in the title. I guess it’s time to address the elephant in the room. Corona or as it is officially known, Covid-19. I have to admit, it’s been in the back of my mind since the first cases arrived in the UK but I never once believed it would get to the stage it has today. It’s affected people everywhere and posed a particular problem to medical students.

We turned up to our placement on Monday. I’ve officially moved hospitals and I am now at George Eliot (fondly known as Geliot), a small local hospital and a million miles away from what I have known at UHCW. We can get a cup of coffee for a £1 here for starters. We were issued our passes and then went out to explore the hospital before our welcome lecture from Dr Nair at 12:30pm. My clinical partner and I decided to hunt down one of our consultants who is a Respiratory consultant to say hello and get to know her timetable. We eventually found the ward and waited for her to arrive. It was weird, a new hospital, new wards, new staff. My brain was struggling to keep up. The side room behind us was being treated by nurses in full PPE. Our doctor arrived and as we said hello, we knew were not going to be there long. She explained how she didn’t want medical students on the ward because of the extra workload they were facing, however, she did provide us with a timetable of her work life which was brilliant.

We ended up wandering the hospital unsure of what to do next when we bumped into the F3 who was on the ward who offered to take us to the morgue. We accepted but I was a bit hesitant about what we were going to see. We stepped in and watched the doctor checking for pacemakers. It was profound to see those who had passed on, and coming out of the room, my brain was still trying to process everything I had seen.

We went to grab a cup of tea after to sit down and mull over everything when we found out others had been removed from the wards and were upstairs. We ended up all sitting in the canteen, delving into Geliot's well-talked about ice cream bar, waiting for 12:30pm to arrive. However, word began to leak through that all first-year teaching had been cancelled. I was pretty sure what that meant for us then. Then the email came through to say we were off placement for two weeks. It felt odd. On one hand we were happy, we wouldn’t be posing an infection risk anymore and it meant we had a bit of a break after our first 10 weeks of placement. On the other hand, we were disappointed as it meant two weeks of nothing but theory and no clinical time, especially when we had only been at our new hospital for four hours.

We met Dr Nair for a hello and goodbye session before making our way back home. Luckily for me, it meant I could have the afternoon sleeping off my newly developed cold (not covid, runny nose, no cough, no high temp) and not have to miss placement.

The next few weeks will be interesting and worrying. A lot of my year have gone home to help the NHS in their old roles of HCA/nursing/ODP and many more. I just hope they stay safe. For me, I’m trying to see if I can get a job as a HCA or help out at local GPs. I can take bloods, insert a cannula, do obs, and now ABGs. I want to help out but if helping out means staying away, then I guess it’s the presentation list for me! There’s schemes being set up across the country by med students offering child/pet care for health professionals who are caught on the Covid front line which I think is brilliant. We are all DBS checked, and have a lot of time on our hands!

How this is going to affect the future of my degree is unknown, how it’s going to affect the NHS is unknown. The next few weeks will bring change but by sticking together (figuratively), following guidelines and keeping safe, that’s the best we can do for now.


March 23, 2020

Resuscitation and COVID–19

It’s only been 2 weeks since my last blog, but it feels like a lifetime in so many ways! Coronavirus has gone from a distant virus circulating in China to the main news story every day and a major concern for everyone.

Starting with last week, I had a shift at the UHCW A&E Resuscitation department on Saturday night. This is where the really sick patients come in to be stabilised before they move on to other areas of the hospital. These patients have a variety of serious conditions including sepsis, major pneumonias, major trauma, major bleeds, heart attacks etc. I really enjoyed this shift and how fast paced the work was. The patients are “big sick” and the job of resus is to treat them as quickly as possible, stabilise them and send them to the wards/theatre etc. The doctor who was supervising me was great and encouraged me to go and talk to patients, put in cannulas and take bloods, all of which I managed to do! It really built my confidence to be able to actually be useful and help the team, rather than the ever-present feeling of just being a burden as a medical student. I also got a chance to practice and perfect some airway manoeuvres, which are skills that are difficult to practice apart from in a Resuscitation environment. One of these is called the jaw thrust and involves pushing the jaw forward to keep the airway open while holding an oxygen mask over the patient’s face. You then have to monitor the oxygen and carbon dioxide in their blood to make sure you are oxygenating them successfully. Although this was daunting, I had lots of support, teaching and supervision from the very talented staff in Resus and managed to do this successfully.

I really wanted to avoid talking about coronavirus/COVID-19, but it’s impossible to do when it has had such a big impact on everything, so I thought I would update you from a medical student’s perspective. What is happening depends on which medical school you are at, but for third years at Warwick (i.e. me!), there has been little change. Overall, from this week the first years are being taught online/via lecture recordings, the second years are off placement and we are continuing until we finish this block in one week’s time. I think the thinking behind this is that our specialist placements are very time limited because they run until December and then we have finals, so there isn’t much time to make up for any lost teaching. Completing this block means that if there is any future disruption, at least we have this block completed and banked. I am glad we are still on Acute block as I have enjoyed it so far and it is an important one overall.

I think the next few months will be very challenging based on the news, but I also think it’s important to make sure that we look after one another and reach out to any members of our community that are vulnerable and may need extra support. There has been talk in the news of medical students supporting the NHS, but I think that is more the current final years as they are more useful clinically and can help with some basic jobs. What about us? Well, there has been some talk online about junior medical students maybe helping with babysitting NHS staff member’s children and odd jobs to help out but I haven’t heard anything officially. I will keep you posted!


March 19, 2020

Yes I cannula

We are coming up to the final weeks of our block and getting ready to move on to our next placements. I am moving to George Elliot which is a general district hospital which will be a million miles away from UHCW, but a welcome change.

However, before we get there, we still have three more weeks left of our speciality block to get through. We started out with peri-op. This is basically everything that happens just before and after you have an operation. It was nice to be away in theatres for a change and I have fully decided that I want to live in scrubs for the rest of my life. It was also an opportunity to find out more about anaesthetics which is a totally different speciality to what we have seen so far. I’ve encountered anaesthetists already on the labour ward but this was a chance to find out more about the speciality when it comes to operations.

We began watching general surgery which was a hernia repair. I was interested as to how they put the patient to sleep and what drugs were used. I was watching the cannula being inserted like a hawk as it’s a skill I’ve been nervous about due to the fiddly nature of it, but I’m keen to get one done this week. The anaesthetist took us aside in the theatre and talked us through methods of cannulation and egged us on to practise our one-handed technique. We spend the next 20 minutes inserting a cannula into the packaging it came it. It felt weird but was great practise. We had to go then for teaching on otoscopy which is looking into people’s ears. I seem to have a thing where I keep getting ear infections, so I am familiar with the tools of the trade. I think what I took away from this session most of all however was a little motivational talk I got from the doctor.

I mentioned how I had gone off surgery since I don’t feel like I can cope in a world where people are a vastly different personality type to me. I am a bit fluffy, and most surgeons are not. I said I would rather be happy in all the years of my career than happy just at the end. She told me off for thinking this way, that I should never give up just because I don’t fit in, and that I should make my career fit with me. She said we need more female surgical consultants. I admit I did feel a sense of comradery after this but I just think I have drifted away from the idea. I don’t mind, I have a deepening love of paediatrics and a goal of getting to GOSH that no one is going to stop me getting to.

Aside from the small uplifting talk, I also achieved another milestone this week. On Tuesday we had a couple of surgeries and a lovely anaesthetist who allowed me to practise my cannulation. On my third patient, I managed to completely insert the cannula, completely unaided from beginning to finish. Inside I was grinning ear to ear. My demon had been banished. I asked our lovely anaesthetist to sign my cannula off but she stated she wasn’t a doctor so couldn’t do it. I was so confused; she had run all the induction and was alone in the theatre running it. Turns out she was an anaesthetist associate. I had never heard of that role before, so it was nice to actually have a chat and find out more. We are encountering physicians associates at George Elliot (fondly known as Gelliot) so it was nice to have a chat with someone of a similar background.

I can’t wait to move on. My next post will be coming from after I start at Gelliot but reflecting on block one, I have three memorable moments:

  1. Helping to deliver a baby
  2. Meeting my first paeds patient in GP and getting two hugs as a thank you and finally...
  3. Having a neonate baby hold my little finger whilst they were having a cannula inserted.

It’s been a eye-opening 10 weeks and I’m looking forward to the next 10, even if it is partly because I’m looking forward to my week off in May!


March 05, 2020

Acute Block

This week we started Acute block which is our 6-week placement where we experience A+E (Accident and Emergency), AMU (Acute Medical Unit) and ITU (the Intensive Care Unit). Over the six weeks we have two shifts on A+E Majors (what they like to call “big sick”), one on Resuscitation (very unwell patients), some time on ITU and AMU wards. This week was week 1 and neither I nor my clinical partner were timetabled any shifts, which gives us a nice opportunity to settle into the block and remind ourselves of some actual physical medicine first!

On Monday we had induction from the block lead, who is one of the A+E consultants over at Warwick Hospital. This was exciting and also terrifying because we were told of some of the extreme things that we may experience during this block – including cardiac arrests and potentially helping out with CPR. While this is a very scary prospect, I do teach CPR to other medical students, so at least I’m somewhat prepared. Despite this experience, I am sure that actually having to do CPR on a real person for the first time will be daunting and probably something I will always remember. Let’s see what the block brings!

On Tuesday we had lectures on the A-E approach and trauma. The A to E approach is a way of assessing a very unwell patient where A stands for Airway, B for Breathing, C for Circulation, D for Disability and E for Exposure. These are meant to be done in order, so you look at the airway first, then assess breathing etc. This approach is something that we were taught last year, but the standards are a lot higher now that we are third years. We also had a lecture on trauma (complete with grisly pictures!) and how to manage this. UHCW (the main hospital for Warwick Medical School) is also a Major Trauma Centre, so you can often hear the helicopters landing with a trauma call. A+E and trauma are aspects of medicine I am keen to explore as potential career options, not that I wish there to be any major traumas during my placement!

On Wednesday we had our first session in the simulation suite at Warwick Hospital. Simulation is quite new to medical education in general, but it can be a very useful and safe way of learning what to do in clinical scenarios. The patient for these sessions is “Sim-Man” which is a rubber mannikin hooked up to a computer. This mannikin is amazing with the things it can do – it breathes, can blink, can make noises and even has pulses! The operator on the computer can even make it breath with a wheeze. The session was facilitated by a Consultant Anaesthetist who also gave us a quick lecture on prescribing fluids, and then we were into the room with Sim-Man. My scenario was a patient who was on Morphine for pain and then his breathing was slowing down. Added to this, he had low blood sugar. It was quite stressful trying to remember how to treat the Morphine overdose and what to administer to raise his blood sugars, but helpfully I had two other medical students who were my “Assistants” and were helping me to assess and treat the patient. Overall it was one of the most useful things I’ve done here and actually seemed quite realistic. The only difference was that Sim-Man is made of plastic…


February 10, 2020

Next Please!

This week we got to have our first taste at being a GP. I have to admit , it’s not a career that I have ever seen myself going into. I thought it was all going to be colds and coughs but, I was proved wrong!

Our GP is the Gabels Medi Centre so, it isn’t too far to get to and when they said our first week started at 10am, my tired brain celebrated! I could get up after 7am! We were welcomed and made to feel part of the team immediately and it felt amazing to be there. I was initially out in to observe a nurse and I got to see 12 month vaccinations. It sparked a conversation about the anti-vax movement which is increasing in the UK and the mum herself knew of someone who was anti-vax but had managed to be persuaded to give her child the vaccinations. It was interesting and gave me a bit of food for thought for the day.

In the afternoon we attended the sister practise up the road and met our mentor who was to oversee us through the next 7 weeks. We also run our own consultations in GP but I didn’t expect to be running them on the first day. I did feel a little out of my depth but I soon began to enjoy it. It’s nice having the GP there in the back of the room to glance to for help. In fact, on my first case I virtually ran to her in my mind as my patient had a rash from a suspected diabetic foot complication. They were a lovely patient but unbeknownst to me, I had severely over run my appointment! Must.Get.Better.At.Directing.Consultations......

However, my other patients were also lovely and the most surprising thing to me was the variety. I honestly did not expect to be jumping around each system between appointments, especially at this time of the year when colds and coughs are rife. It was also nice to get feedback from both my CP and GP and also give the same to my CP. I think we are both wobbly on histories and we both need to work on getting our consultations quicker but we came out of that day beaming.

It felt like we had made a difference to patient care, especially when the GP was going off our suggestions! I had my foot patient coming back for the next week so I need to read up on diabetic treatment. It felt amazing to be put on the spot but also to drag information from the depths of your brain and put it into practical use out in healthcare. I think we both went home thinking a lot more about GP as a potential career but I know that paediatrics is still my forward choice at the moment.

We’ve also had our first community midwife shifts and again, I loved every second. I met a two day year old baby and I had to control every fibre of me that just wanted to pick her up and have a cuddle. The visit was to check in on both mum and baby and to answer any questions mum and dad have. It was clear the little one was a tad early but apparently that’s all babies, appear when you’re not quite ready ! I also got to see a heal prick test carried out on a 5 day old which was nice to see as we were taught about these in Block 5 last year.

In the afternoon I got to sit in on some check up visits with mums still pregnant and help the midwife with urine dipsticks and got the chance to feel the bumps for babies' head and bum. It felt amazing to be allowed into such an important part of the couples lives and I was allowed to take a maternity information pack away with me to look at in my own time.

Im finding that I love the clinical side of the medical degree. It’s making me think of other career options and being able to put into place all the theory I learnt last year, put all that work last year into context. We’ve got labour ward shifts coming up which I am really looking forward to… well, apart from the early starts! 'Til next time – Abbie.


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Our Med Life blogs are all written by current WMS MB ChB students. Although these students are paid to blog, we don’t tell our bloggers what to say. All these posts are their thoughts, opinions and insights. We hope these posts help you discover a little more about what life as a med student at Warwick is really like.

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