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December 04, 2018

Our First Patient

These past two weeks have brought the first time we have had contact with patients. I had been looking forward to this for a while as it is nice to put into context the hundreds of hours of studying and lectures.

Understandably we were nervous - it was the first time talking to someone as a medical student and being in the patient’s home made it even more nerve-wracking. However, the experience was incredible in the end. I can’t say too much to protect patient identity, but our patient was lovely and made us all coffee and biscuits before we had even sat down! They were fiercely independent and had recovered quickly from what was a major operation. Our case had links to our teaching at the medical school, so it was nice to have reassurance that what we are learning now does have clinical application. The long hours can make it seem less so! It was interesting to talk to the patient and find out what was important to them with regards to their health. For this person it was being able to do their gardening. It provided food for thought about tailoring care to enable the patient to live as normal a life as possible and this includes allowing them to participate in activities that they find enjoyable.

We also had the opportunity to chat to healthcare professionals, including a strong-minded nurse who fought for their patients. We get told to always listen to the nurses as they see the patients more than us so have a better understanding of their needs than we do! This particular nurse was not afraid to argue with consultants about what was best for their patients. I can only hope to work with nurses like this when I graduate. We were also told about the funding nature of the NHS. The staff had to hold regular fundraising days to obtain the exercise equipment they needed for the patients’ recovery. It was clearly frustrating that the NHS did not provide this funding but due to the selflessness of the staff, they were able to fund the gym to enable patients to get the most out of their recovery as possible.

It was a long day but we were all grateful to have had the chance to see patients. It was a welcome change to the timetable and we took a lot from the day. It’s easy to be blinded by science teaching and trying to get your head around everything, but it’s good to have a reminder that there are more important things that matter to the patient that the science behind their condition.

We also had Warwick Take Me Out recently, which was a brilliant end to the week. It was the same set up as the TV show except the girls had balloons instead of lights (also the reason I decided to sit as far away from the things (balloons not girls) as humanly possible). We had five guys from the med school (and a couple of non-medics) come and try and get a date. I am pleased to say no one went home without a date and the dates included vouchers for Nandos and Waggas … something the whole of the lecture theatre was envious of and had considered putting themselves forward for just for the prospect of free food. The evening was run by Warwick Marrow and all money raised went to the charity, which will contribute to the £47 it takes to sign up one person to the register.

We are all looking forward to Christmas now. The whole year is pretty tired and ready to break for the holidays. Personally, I am looking forward to sleeping. A lot. I am also excited for the Warwick Medical School interviews for the 2019 cohort. I remember being at mine in January of this year chatting to the current students, so it will be nice to see the process from the other side! If there are any prospective students reading this, good luck! Treat it like a normal conversation - it will be over before you know it and you’ll move on to checking consistently for the decision email! (Just don’t check every five minutes like I did …. You’ll go mad).


November 29, 2018

Anatomy Day and Transition Week

Week 11 of AC1 kicked off with some lectures and talks about Student Selected Component 2, which is a module we study at the beginning of third year. Although a while away yet, this module is a research module, where we develop a project and conduct some sort of research into a specific area. Because of how involved it can be, it needs a good deal of planning and projects have to go through ethical approval, so it is best to start early. We were shown some of the fantastic projects that Warwick students have done in the past, with these inspiring me to think carefully about what sort of research project I might want to conduct. At the moment I have a few ideas, including something to do with the liver, but no substantial ideas yet, so maybe a task for the Christmas break!

We also had Anatomy Day on Wednesday of week 11, which is a new session introduced this year for our cohort. The format is similar to our anatomy sessions from Year 1 – “stations” which are rotated around, with facilitators on hand to guide, assist and provide a useful prompt to identifying the key anatomical structures. All of the content was clinically themed and we covered mostly surgical and abdominal anatomy. Topics included the anatomy knowledge needed for arterial and venous access (procedures we will start observing/practising from January), and core surgical procedures and incisions. I was slightly anxious about this session as we haven’t touched on a lot of our core anatomy since end of Year 1 exams, but I actually found the whole day to be extremely well organised (as per all of our anatomy teaching), and very useful when about to enter the hospital environment. Warwick is known for its excellent anatomical teaching, and this day did not disappoint. Our exquisite plastinated specimens provide an excellent teaching resource and mean that we have a solid basis of anatomical knowledge on which to build and develop our clinical competence.

Week 12 of this block has been the last week of AC1 and is “Transition week”. This week is designed as our orientation week for our first full time clinical placement which starts in January. We are assigned to specific consultants and specialities and stay in this team for the 10 weeks of Core Clinical Education 1 (January-March). My first team is cardiology and acute medicine, which is a great one to start out with, with cardiac issues being the most common complaint and indeed co-morbidity affecting the patients we will see on our journey through medicine. On Monday of Week 12, my clinical partner and I drove into George Eliot Hospital for a relatively early start at 8:30 to track down our named consultant and begin the clinical phase of our medical course! We sat in on a cardiology clinic and various other sessions and learned plenty from our consultant, including some tips and tricks on how to do our cardiac examinations more efficiently and also the key features of heart failure to elucidate in our histories. I feel as though this has really enforced my previous knowledge, so that when exam time does come around again, it might be easier to remember certain clinical features as I will have seen them in person time and again.


November 23, 2018

Our first GP placement and getting ready to go clinical

Today was our first placement in General Practice, which feels like a big moment in the life of any medical student. My clinical partner and I have been placed together as a pair and attached to a small GP surgery based in a village not far from the university. I approached the day with a mixture of trepidation and excitement alike, with a fear of the unknown but excitement at spending the day doing some clinical shadowing. Traffic meant that we arrived only just on time, bang on 9.00am in fact! Despite my nerves and the stressful commute, the practice staff couldn’t have been more welcoming and we were immediately put at ease and felt less daunted.

We were really lucky to be place with a great GP. He was enthusiastic, engaging and managed to test our knowledge without making us feel like we were being interrogated! We learned a lot about some of the common conditions that doctors see in the community, and this also highlighted some areas where we needed to brush up our knowledge (particularly the main examinations!). We also learned about therapeutics and treatments that are available in the community, including the option to refer on to specialist services. The day was a fantastic introduction to our primary care placements which we begin for real from January, and friendly and exciting introduction to the world of primary care medicine.

After coming home from GP, I carried on working on my assessed presentation for my Student Selected Component on Infectious Diseases and Tropical Medicine. My presentation looks at infectious diseases in German concentration camps during the Second World War. I have chosen this because it draws on my previous knowledge from my History degree. I’m hoping to use the combination of my past and current studies to offer my group a new and (hopefully) interesting take on the subject. It’s nice to be able to re-visit my previous studies (and dust off my old books!) and put them to use in my medical degree.

Next week I have an anatomy revision day, where we revise all of the key anatomy covered in Year 1, giving us the opportunity to ask any lingering questions. This is well timed as it will refresh our knowledge of anatomy ahead of starting our full-time clinical placements at the start of our Core Clinical Education (CCE) block in January. CCE is a 30-week block split into 3, 10-week rotations around the major aspects of medicine and surgery. I am very excited to start full-time clinical placements, and it feels like the last year of hard study has been leading up to this point. My first rotation is Cardiology and Acute Medicine, which I think is a good one to have first as it covers quite a lot of the most common conditions we will see as Foundation Doctors. However, I definitely need to revise my ECG reading techniques in preparation!


November 14, 2018

A Revue to Remember

This week has been busy and I feel like I have barely had time to breathe, but it’s been one of the best weeks of Med School yet! This week we had the infamous Warwick Revue. I had been excited about being involved in this since I got my offer and it lived up to every expectation I had and more. The Revue is a chance for the whole Med School to get together and have a break for an evening and allow us theatre types to have some fun.

Although it’s been stressful balancing my degree work with rehearsals, I have enjoyed every second of Revue. It’s nice to talk to people outside of year 1 so I’ve been getting tips on how to survive the first year. The sketches and songs are written by the committee and featured hits such as “Greatest School” aka, “Greatest Showman” and a take on “Love Island” featuring a familiar face of WMS. Finally, what revue would be complete without some High School Musical shoved in there?

The show went amazingly well and a brave third year decided to have a chest wax for charity. Just hearing the howls of pain from the side of stage brought tears to my eyes but it’s all for a good cause, right? We also had a table that wanted a larger role in the performance than just the role of “table”, so it would collapse randomly during the times I was on stage. However, it provided a good laugh and made the scenes that much funnier.

The final song was amazing, and we ended the show with a bang… literally, as someone had brought a confetti cannon! We were supported by talented band members (also med students) and some hard-working tech guys (also med students again). The Revue would not have been anywhere near as good without them. I cannot wait for next year when we get to do it all over again, and I hope to write something for next year as well.

This week also saw the end of Block 1 and the commencement of Block 2. I had been looking forward to this as I wanted to learn some new anatomy and move on from looking at the abdomen. Again, Jamie Roebuck brought his A game with his physiology lectures. On the first day, we were treated to a drinking race using straws to demonstrate flow rate, and the presence of chocolate on day two to demonstrate ventilation and perfusion went down especially well.

I’m playing around with how I take lecture notes after being in the lecture as I am finding that trying to revise pages and pages of notes is draining and not productive at all. So, I have now decided to make all my notes onto one A4 page and see if that works better. I also took my Block 1 formative this week as we must do at the end of every block. It is split into two sections, a multiple-choice section and a short answer section. I failed the first take of the MCQ, but I am not too worried as I decided to do it before I reviewed my Block 1 notes, and I would have done slightly better. I was also only 2% off passing and I did manage to pass on my second take. The formatives do not count towards our final grade and are more a method for the Med School and us to monitor our progress and find out where our weaknesses are.

I have also had another job to do this week as I have been running the Warwick Medical School Instagram account! I was worried about what to talk about but it’s been a lot of fun and I have enjoyed running it so I hope it has been useful for future Warwick Medical School students! The next couple of weeks are apparently intense with the content we learn but I am looking forward to it all. We also have “Medic Take Me Out” this month which is going to be brilliant and something I really am looking forward to! I can’t wait for Christmas songs to start playing as we get near to Christmas …. And our mock OSCEs.


November 01, 2018

Communication skills, Yoga and making links…

As we go past the halfway point of the Advanced Cases 1 block, I can hardly believe that this term has gone so quickly.

Recently we have been learning about diabetes and autoimmune diseases, such as lupus. Some of the science behind the immunology and renal/kidney teaching has been very complicated (there are a lot of immune cells to learn!) but it has nicely built on our learning from last year. For example, we were taught about chronic kidney disease, but this year we have gone into more detail about the causes of the diseases and the management of the various types of illnesses. It has been the same with our diabetes teaching. We covered diabetes in detail last year and now our teaching has been more clinical and focused mainly on management of the condition. In that way, the last two weeks have nicely brought our year 1 content back to the fore and forced us to revisit kidney anatomy that perhaps some of us would prefer to leave in the past.

Meanwhile, my clinical placements at George Eliot hospital have been continuing. For the last two weeks I have had bedside teaching every Monday. This is where a qualified doctor takes out a small group of students (typically 2-4) and finds them some interesting patients to meet. We would then take the history and conduct an appropriate system examination (or a few). All of this is followed by constructive feedback from our supervisor on technique and content and a walk through some of our differentials and reasoning. This block, our bedside teaching supervisors have expected more from us in terms of diagnosis and management too, whereas in year 1 it was mostly about just taking a basic history and conducting a basic examination.

I took the history from both patients which was useful as I hadn’t conducted a proper history since my OSCEs in June! I struggled to remember all of the parts and forgot to ask about all the relevant risk factors for falls. This was brought up afterwards by the supervisor and we went over it for revision. Despite feeling quite rusty, it was refreshing to get stuck back into my histories and refresh my memory on specific areas to ask when a patient has had a fall. The feedback I received from my supervisor was good in terms of communication, with just a few pointers for how I can improve in terms of content!

Last week we also had a small group session to help develop our communication skills. We were in small groups of 4, and had to take a history from a patient while assessed by a facilitator. All of this sounds relatively straightforward, but the patients, played by professional actors, had complicated histories and had been briefed to not make our jobs easy. For example, a patient may be reluctant to give us information or act very nervous. This was an interesting challenge for us. So far, a lot of our history taking practice has been done on fellow students. Whilst this has been a great way to build our confidence, peers can often be a little too helpful in prompting questions and examinations. In reality patients will present with a wide range of personalities, beliefs, preconceptions and will more often than not have no idea what the cause of their symptoms may be or what information is relevant. It was exciting to try and use our communication skills to ease information out of the patients using non-verbal techniques such as leaving silences if you feel the patient has more information to give. It also helped us practice our listening skills, including looking for small verbal cues (i.e. inflections in voice and tone). This was some great revision of first year skills, but also a nice step up in complexity in terms of challenge.

For a bit of a change in pace I decided to attend WMS Yoga Society that one of friends helped set up. I enjoy yoga and decided I needed some down-time during the week so it was great to go along. It was nice to see lots of other medics from various year groups get together and do something which wasn’t medicine related, even for just an hour. All in all, it was a nice relax and a well-deserved reset after a busy couple of weeks and prepared me for week 8 of Advanced Cases 1. Bring on a week of Genetics!


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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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