I truly love and enjoy reading about medicine and studying the complex world of science. However, my ultimate goal and dream is to become a doctor or consultant of some sort. So to have the opportunity to spend a week shadowing and following in the footsteps of real heroes and role models was one of the best experiences. This week gave me the chance to see and get involved- hands on- what doctors/GPs do on a daily basis and even apply my knowledge to complex situations and solve difficult problems. As a whole, I am ever more convinced that I do not want to be just a scientist and have expert knowledge, but I want to make a difference and work with people to change their life for the better.
Before starting work experience, I had no idea whether I want to be a GP or whether I want to specialise and go into one of the many specialities medicine has to offer. Therefore, I did not only not know what to expect but I also began the first day with my eyes and options open. I admit I felt very nervous and shy so driving to the surgery was not the easiest. However, I stayed very positive and I knew I would love this because medicine runs through my blood.
On the first day, I was introduced to all the staff and some of the GPs I would be working with over the course of the week, and I was also given a tour of the surgery and told where everything was. This was the first of many challenges I experienced- learning all the names and remembering where all the rooms were (haha). Before I continue, I would like to say that I have never met a more lovely, kind and warming group of people before. The ladies in the office and reception were so so welcoming, explaining to me what they do, chatting to me about A-levels/school and life in general- the tea and biscuits too of course, who could forget about that! They made me feel calm and I felt so much less nervous about this experience.
The very first task I was given was to collect patient records, look through each of the files carefully (of which there were hundreds if not thousands) and go onto the profile of each patient on the system that all GPs use to look at when speaking to them, in order to know their entire past history/any previous medical problems etc. and sort all past medical problems into minor and major problems. I cannot begin to explain how complicated and almost enigmatic this software was. One of the ladies had to show me and demonstrate about 10 times how to operate the software and fill in the information. The patient records consisted of letters from consultants, surgeons and GPs, as well as test results like blood tests, cervical screenings and biopsies. It was extremely interesting and overwhelming going through all the patient records and seeing how doctors communicate with each other. In addition, I learnt so much new medical terminology, gained insight into the tremendous variety of diseases/conditions doctors deal with and had a moment to do some small research into the most intriguing illnesses.
After doing this, I had an extremely large pile of patient records, already on the system, to put in the file room in the correct alphabetical order. The file room seemed to carry on forever and the amount of patient records was never ending. Whilst carefully organising the records, I realised to what extent surgeries are struggling and what impact the increasing amount of new patients coming in is having on the NHS and surgeries. With certain cuts currently being made as well as many surgeries already closing down, I felt a bit worried and truly grasped the problems being faced by the Medical World.
Overall, throughout the first day I did mostly clerical and office work and at the end I was also showed what kind of paperwork GPs have to fill in. I was surprised to see that GPs spend a considerable amount of time writing reports, letters and overall do quite a bit of office work (bureaucratic). However, this “office work” consisted mostly of writing accounts on patients seen recently and referring them as well as problem solving. Therefore, the first day was designed to introduce me to the paper work and ‘Office World’ of GPs.
The next day, I came in just before 9:00am and was welcomed just like the first day. After making the first stressful set of cups of tea, I started off by ploughing through the remaining patient records and completing the notes on the system. At mid day, I was able to finally meet one of the GPs, who was also name & Senior partner, and shadow him for the rest of the day. First we spent a good half hour having a conversation about all things medicine. I had my list of questions ready and I learnt so much about university life (the GP I spoke to was an Oxford Graduate!), the NHS, how he deals with patients, his experiences, things he would do differently, dealing with various situations, his work in general and I even got a mini masterclass in infectious disease and antibiotic resistance. I learnt so much I could go on for eternity. Afterwards, I attended a baby clinic and got to see how the GP examines newborn babies to see whether they are fit and healthy to have their first set of vaccinations at 8 weeks. Some of the tests were bizarre, but funnily enough they were well justified and when I asked later, the GP explained the reasons behind the different parts of examination very well. I even had the chance to use some of the devices and examine one of the babies myself! For instance I got to use the lens and hunt for any eye cataracts. Then, I saw one of the babies receive the four vaccines. Once the baby clinic finished, I sat with the GP for the rest of the day and met many very different patients with very different complaints and symptoms, and asked the GP more probing questions
Day 3 started off with me spending the entire morning with the lead nurse, and similarly to shadowing a GP, I had the opportunity to sit with her and listen to patients. I witnessed two blood tests, an INR (an INR is a meeting where patients on warfarin medication come in and the thickness of their blood is measured, to see whether their warfarin dosage needs to be increased or decreased. These patients have numerous cardiological problems which is why they are put on warfarin, for instance, those who find they have atrial fibrillation or clotting disorders), a spirometry test, asthma test and I also witnessed a man with prostate cancer come in for a zoladex injection.
On Wednesday’s the Surgery closes early at around 1:00pm because it is affiliated with another surgery elsewhere that is open longer, meaning they can finish early. The opposite happens on Fridays, where the surgery I spent the week works longer.
The week was slowly coming to an end, and I couldn’t help but feel a little sad coming in on the fourth day. Spending time at the GP surgery made me realise and think about why I want to do what I want to do. I see GPs and they are so happy and enjoy their job so much, which inspires and motivates me to study hard.
I spent most of the day once again, shadowing a GP and later for an hour or so at a health clinic listening to the nurse talking to patients and discussing their symptoms. This time, I managed to have a conversation with the GP about a few ethical topics and the current NHS situation. The nurses role at the health clinic was to see patients to examine them and decide whether their complaints were serious/an emergency and whether they should go to the GP. This saves a lot of time for the GPs and it also means doctors can see more patients (patients in a worse condition) during the day. Finally, I did a big pile of photocopying for the ladies in the office, which are in charge of the day to day running of the surgery.
On the last day, I had the chance to get involved and help the GP with performing some tests and procedures. For example, I carried out an ECG on a lady all by myself with some assistance and to my surprise everything went quite alright-apart from originally mixing up the exact locations where the sticky tabs were meant to be put. After the patient received their ECG result, the GP later gave me a mini masterclass on electrocardiograms, the cardiac cycle and how the heart beat is brought about overall. Following that, I had the opportunity to attend a minor operation- one of the GPs and leading nurses was removing an infected toe nail. I admit that in the beginning I felt a little uneasy and the view was something I wasn’t used to, however, as the operation proceeded I felt much more comfortable and had a better look at what was going on.
Finally, I got to meet a patient who has diabetes and attended the surgery to get the wound on his foot cleaned. Speaking to the patient and gaining an insight into their life as a diabetic made me feel empathy and compassion. Although they did not control their condition well in the beginning, after being diagnosed, their struggles later on made me feel slightly helpless. This feeling made me also feel somewhat bad and angry at myself… when I become a doctor, I don’t want to feel that way all the time and I would like to improve peoples lives by diagnosing, treating, developing science and pointing them in the right direction. OF COURSE, I am aware that to be a physician isn’t so positive all the time and that there will be difficult periods where the future might not seem the brightest and I will face tough situations. BUT you have to battle through it and using your love for people and medicine do everything in your power to save the day.
Leaving and saying goodbye to everyone at the surgery was a little bit hard, because during this week I felt like I had become a part of a family. A family that shared one exact same passion, same mission, and same goals plus determination. The surgery felt like home, and I was able to build some fun, challenging but everlasting memories. The list of things I learnt is immense.
I am still unsure whether General Practice is the way forward for me after medical school, however, I am most definitely not crossing it out after this week. Who knows!? I think this is because I enjoy the rush and spontaneity of hospitals and having the chance to directly treat fascinating diseases. Being a GP and being a Consultant are both amazing, so I’m hoping medical school can help me become even more inspired and give me the knowledge I need to be a fantastic doctor! This week was another huge leap and step towards becoming a medic and I want to gain even more experience, more insight and more skill.
Overall, I have become a more confident speaker and developed qualities I hope to hold forever. Thank you to those who made this experience so amazing.