This week, I am lucky enough to have a placement at my local hospital, on the MAU and TSS wards. The MAU ward is the medical assessment unit, where patients are examined and then referred to specialisms, sent home, or moved to other wards. The TSS unit stands for the Terrington Short Stay Unit, and was where I was placed today. Here, many patients are admitted due to a fall, problems with diabetes or problems which come through A&E which aren’t life threatening. The aim for a maximum stay at the TSS unit is 72 hours, however today I have seen the stresses and strains of the unit, and how this is not always possible.
Surprisingly, while not one of my first experiences in a healthcare setting, today was one of only a couple of times I have been on a hospital ward. My family and I are lucky enough not to fall ill very often, so it was a hugely eye opening experience. It is a tough environment, bright lights, loud noises and machines, ill patients and lots of people who need help, however I found I quickly found my feet and the ward became much less daunting.
I began my day following two F1 students and a consultant doing the ward round, seeing just under 30 different patients. I saw a number of fascinating conditions, including sepsis, jaundice and been able to listen to an abnormal respiratory sound – ‘crackling’ and compare it to a healthy lung. From looking at the scans of the patient, I then saw that what was supposed to be a black area (lung) was patched with abnormal white areas, causing the crackling. This was explained to me to be fluid, which needed to be monitored incase it worsened. I learnt a lot medically, from simple abbreviations, to little pieces of knowledge about diseases and illnesses, however a key part of this for me was patient interaction. The consultant led the ward round, asking the F1 students questions and for their opinions, however, he spoke differently to each patient, both making himself easy to understand and the patients as comfortable as possible. Nobody wants to be in hospital and I’ve seen today how a friendly doctor, who listens to the stories a patient has to tell, can really improve a patients’ experience.
What I didn’t like about the TSS ward, was the emphasis on discharge. There seemed to be rush to get people out as someone was always waiting for a bed, and the F1 students were being pushed to discharge patients quickly by the nurses. It is a ward with an incredibly quick turnaround, and on speaking to one of the F1 students I shadowed for the rest of the day, she told me that she wished she had more time to follow her patients’ stories and really get to know them, rather than just treat them and send them on their way. This has really made me consider which aspects of medicine I might like to pursue, as I feel that this following of a patient and their story – both medical and personal, is an aspect of medicine really important to me, and one that you might not get in a ward such as TSS or A&E.
Having said this, I really enjoyed my insight into medicine today, as packed full of paperwork and stress as it may be. I saw both what I consider to be good and bad practice, and both upbeat and unhappy patients – a reality of medicine. Perhaps one of the loveliest and most heartwarming aspects of today was husband and wife, on adjacent wards just the other side of the wall from each other. The husband of the couple just wanted to sit and hold his wife’s hand, and this was facilitated for as much as possible by the TSS team, as they obviously appreciated just how much it improved their stay.