In the beginning of writing this I immediately find the idea of recording everything I learned from my work experience as rather daunting due to the fact that you can learn so much from even one week in a hospital, but I will do my best to mention the fundamental learning points. But first of all, should they ever read this, I would like to say a massive thank you to Dr. D’Silva, Dr. Allan, Dr. Hooper, Dr. Crundwell, Dr. Hammond, Dr. Stoilova, all the technicians and nurses who were kind enough to also teach me, and especially to Dr. Walker. You all made me feel welcome taught me so much.
A new language must be learnt.
The thing I started having to adapt to and learn with from the very beginning was the sheer amount of medical jargon. I must have learnt at least 50 totally alien (at the time) bits of medical terminology, fantastic ancient Greek and Latin words like cardiomyopathy (heart muscle disease), ischaemia (insufficient blood flow), and stenosis (narrowing of passages or openings e.g. valves/vessels). I was told that in medicine, students learn more new words than language students and having finished just one week, I can easily believe that. I certainly wouldn’t have been able to tell you what a CABG or atrial fibrillation was when I first started!
Common sense & practicality trumps most.
Something I learnt that surprised me was that common sense and practicality will more often than not be of more use to a doctor than a head full of facts as it was immediately drilled into me by Dr. Stoilova and Dr. Allan that there are no textbook cases and no two patients are the same, and also not to be a young doctor who wants to always solve the big complicated cases because something as small as the patient being dehydrated and low on blood sugar could be the real answer but I would not spot it because I’d been reading into complicated cases too much.
Teamwork and respect are not questionable.
I found the hospital to be much like a human body, made up of many different (yet essential) factions and individuals, which without them would fail to function. It was told me (by the junior doctors mostly) that doctors cannot do everything and in the beginning actually know how to do very little so they rely on nurses and specialists to teach them. I have never questioned the importance of nurses and never will as it is a common misconception (especially in young men like me) that nurses are beneath doctors and doctors are the ‘highest rank’ in the hospital, but this could not be further from the truth. I now hold even more respect for the other medical staff aside from doctors now that I have seen just how hard their jobs can be as well.
All patients must be treated.
This one would appear to go without saying upon first glance but sometimes it is hard (but essential) to ignore what kind of person your patient is or how unnecessary a case might appear. For example there was a man who frequently came in to one of the wards I worked in who was a shameless drug addict and had to be escorted by security everywhere because of his behaviour towards the staff, and also a man who came into A&E with just a tiny cut on his leg. I was told that many times you have to grit your teeth as a doctor and get on with it because at the end of the day, they are your patients and they are your responsibility and it is not your job to judge them. Patience is most definitely a virtue in medicine.
Just like life, medicine adapts.
As people are living longer these days, the field of medicine and its staff have to work on new ways to accommodate the changing factors in patients. I could see this from the way that so many of the patients I came across were elderly. This adaptability (which cannot be found in many other fields) fascinates me and is one of the many reasons I wish to enter the field of medicine as it is ever-changing and never boring.
There is so much to being a doctor.
Whenever somebody asks me what speciality of doctor I want to be I cannot tell them yet because medicine is such a varied field. I myself spent the week in A&E, Cardiology, Echo, Radiology, Resus, Cathlab, and Clinic so I got quite a varied week out of my work experience which I am thankful for. In that time I saw so many skills of the doctors come to light such as communication, charm, diagnosing skill, needlework etc. This showed me that being a doctor is not the same as being some bookworm who does nothing but sit and study and that not only do you have to be intelligent but you have to be sturdy, brave, and have excellent people skills. It also made medicine seem less intimidating and elitist and made me think truly for the first time that I could really do it.
Medicine is more than just a job.
Many of the doctors (again the juniors particularly) told me that going into medicine involves making it part of your lifestyle and giving yourself to your job. This seemed quite off-putting at first but as I asked, none told me that they had any regrets about their job or the path they had chosen because each and every one of them love they do. I also learned quite suddenly that in medicine you must learn to be tough and enduring sometimes as I witnessed my first patient death (a cardiac arrest) and this was a stepping stone I did not expect to encounter this early in my life. However even though it shook me to my core, it did not break me and it did not deter me but rather reinforced the drive within me, confirming that I can handle everything both good and bad about medicine and that it is definitely the path for me. I understand now why commitment is paramount in medicine and my commitment has definitely strengthened by this experience.