The WAMS Work Experience Week

Hi everyone! At the start of the month I participated in a week-long work experience programme run by WAMS (Widening Access to Medical School) and it was a great experience! I had the opportunity to shadow a 5th year medical student which allowed me to get an idea of the different ways in which they are taught and see how they are involved in the teaching hospital.

On the first day, we spent the morning in introductory talks which explained what to expect throughout the week and then were given ID badges. Later in the day, we got to meet our mentors! Mine was incredibly welcoming and I instantly felt at ease with her. That afternoon, I sat with her as she observed a Renal Clinic. I felt this was a comfortable start to the week as I had been in a Renal Clinic as part of my Hospex placement that I mentioned last month. However, this was a completely different experience as the patients had extremely varied conditions. This further emphasised to me how vast medicine is and made me more interested in the career as no two days are ever the same! My mentor was very helpful as she explained anything I did not understand from the consultations afterwards as well as highlighting the importance of multidisciplinary teams in medicine by linking them to the patients we saw in the clinic.

On the second day, the coordinators of the programme had arranged for a variety of workshops for the morning. During this time, we were divided into groups of three or four. I was in one of four, and this allowed an opportunity to get to know other participants! There were six stations we went to: three before a break and three afterwards. Before the short break we learnt about CPR in babies and young children and the usefulness of having this skill was highlighted – the paediatrician running the session had had to use it around 10 – 20 times that week!! Then we moved onto a station on bone anatomy where we learnt the names of the bones in the arms starting from the shoulder blade and moving down to the fingers. We were also shown how fractures are identified using example X-Rays. The last station before the break was Obs / Gyn where we were taught how to feel for the position of the baby in the mother’s stomach using a model. We also heard and discussed a baby’s heartbeat (part of the model, not a real baby’s heartbeat!). After the break, we had sessions on ophthalmology, P & R and MDD, the last of which I found particularly impactful as I volunteered for a demonstration where several pieces of equipment used to prevent further damage to bones etc. were placed on me and I was asked to carry out simple tasks such as walking a few steps and eating a gummy bear. These tasks proved surprisingly difficult with these slings on me which made me think about how important it is to consider the patient’s experience.

In the afternoon, I sat in a teaching that my mentor had on loss of consciousness! I was impressed by how the teaching fellow used the cases to engage with the group and interact with them in a way that consolidated and tested their knowledge as well as building on it with new content. Talking to my mentor afterwards about other teaching methods used made me more interested in applying to that university! My mentor also talked me through how she would take a history as well as carry out respiratory and cardiovascular examinations.

On Wednesday, we had a similar morning as there were another set of workshops to attend! We learned how to measure blood pressure, use a prescription booklet, read an ECG, carry out CPR in adults as well as a simulated patient history taking! In the afternoon, I went on the ward with my mentor and another work experience student; we looked through patient notes and discussed how they are used to gain an understanding of the patient and their presenting complaint.

On Thursday, I attended a haematology teaching with my mentor and found this a rather different experience to the previous teaching in the week as this was less interactive, however it was still very informative and engaging as the teaching fellow encouraged the students to understand the area better by putting it into the context of incidents they may have seen on the wards. Afterwards, I was able to observe my mentor taking blood from a patient – I was impressed with how she made the patient feel at ease throughout the whole process. In the afternoon, the coordinators of the programme had arranged talks on the life of a junior doctor and history taking – we practiced the latter with partners using roleplay !

On the final day, I attended a pharmaceutical teaching with my mentor where the students were given a variety of cases and were asked to show how they would write their prescriptions in the booklet accurately so that there is minimal confusion among medical staff – this made me appreciate how important it is to practise this as a medical student as it appeared quite challenging in some cases. In the afternoon, we had talks on applying to medicine and applying to that university in particular. We also did  informal presentations about things we had learned or found fascinating throughout the week, which I found was a useful opportunity to reflect on the experience. The experience has further motivated me to pursue a career in medicine!

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