A new plan

It’s coming to the end of February which, even by my standards has been a rollercoaster. I’m looking forward to march (not least because it contains my birthday). So to celebrate the end of the second month of the year (yeah, I don’t know where it’s gone either), I am going to try and write a new entry everyday this week.

This will be a chance for me to express and you to see a true week in the life of a med student.

As for this weekend. It has been pretty much business as usual, work, attempted sleep and binge watching series (finished House M.D., now onto Scrubs – I can count it as work if it contains medical stuff).

On to monday!!

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Work Experience

The one thing every medical school wants from its applicants.

Work experience can come in all shapes and sizes.I will run through some ideas for work experience and personal statement boosters to try and get your application near to the top of the pile.

Shadowing

The staple work experience of most undergraduate applicants. Shadowing shows that you’ve been in a clinical environment witnessing medicine first hand. Yet, personally, shadowing means nothing unless you’re using it to determine if medicine is right for you. Name dropping consultants or procedures into interviews and personal statements won’t help, if anything, it’ll just portray you as a show off. As usual, if you are putting shadowing into a personal statement make sure you reflect on it. Think back to things like ‘how did the multidisciplinary teams help to make the patient comfortable?’ and ‘what does being a doctor really entail? e.g. paperwork, multiple patients’.

Volunteer Work

Probably one of the most sought after work experience personal statement boosters there is. The longer you do it, the better it looks (depending on what you did). It shows you are willing to give up your free time, without compensation, to help others. If you’re able to clinically applied voluntary work (e.g. St John Ambulance, British Red Cross) it looks even better as you will often have patient contact and some clinical experience before even starting. As with any experience though, it’s the reflection that counts. What did you learn from the experience (other than you want to do medicine)? What other roles did you have (e.g. committee)?

Paid clinical work

I realise this is more likely for those going for graduate entry medicine or those taking a gap year. Hands on clinical work such as healthcare assistants, nursing home or even portering can help you get a real feel for the career you have in mind. In addition to this, you also get paid for it! Many healthcare providers require you to be at least 18 to work due to the type of work and insurance purposes.

General paid part/full time work

Just because something isn’t clinical doesn’t mean it’s not applicable to medicine. Many jobs require team participation, communication skills and time management, all valuable skills that are highly sought after in medicine. Working for a long time can help (even if it’s one/half a day a week) as it shows commitment. Once again it’s all about reflection. Mention roles you undertook and how this can help you in a career in healthcare. However, make sure you don’t fill up too much of your personal statement with non-relevant material. You have limited space and they do want you to show some clinical experience.

Hobbies

Often over-looked, hobbies are vital. If you play sports, or dance, or paint, or play musical instruments; put it down. Med schools are looking for well-rounded individuals, not just book-worms who get good grades. Make sure you can link to a career in medicine (e.g. first aider for a sports team) but is less important to do so as they know you need to unwind somehow!

 

Lastly, don’t rush your decision to do medicine. Get the right experience and know you want to do it. In addition, don’t leave writing your personal statement to the last minute, the best ones have thought and effort put into them. If you don’t get in first time, don’t be disheartened, you’ll have more life experience come the second application cycle. Good Luck!

10 Days

A lot can happen in 10 days, and usually does.

10 days ago was valentine’s day. It seems like it was months ago, yet at the same time like it was yesterday. February is horrible time of year for me personally and this year seems to have chucked more things than usual in my direction. Each knock down followed by an attempt to get back up without fully succeeding.

I always knew there was more to life than just medicine, but sometimes it’s difficult to see it through the smoke screen that is studying. This means when it does come around it arrives with a bang.

Until now, I’ve always heard that medicine is a way of life, not a career. Looking at the workload you wouldn’t be mistaken thinking that. 17 years of education just to start the degree, 4 years further studying and the rest of your life working, it’s a lot of your life spent, but medicine is a career.

The moment a career becomes your life is when you’ll start missing out on life itself.

Politics in Medicine

Firstly, I apologise that I have not written anything in the last few days. To say it has been hectic is an understatement!!

Seen as politics has been such a news grabber recently, why not continue the trend.

Is there a place for politics in medicine?

At the end of 2016, St George’s Hospital in south London, announced that they would be checking ID before treating pregnant patients on the maternity ward in an attempt to reduce health tourism. 

Personally I feel this is breach of everything medicine stands for. As doctors our job is to treat sick people regardless of age, disability, ethnicity, religion or even political standing. We are there to treat not to act as gatekeepers for the government, especially in an emergency scenario such as child birth. 

This is my personal standpoint, but would love to hear other people’s opinion on something like this, especially in today’s political climate.
NHS and the UK.

It’s always been a fantastic partnership. Free healthcare for the population. However, in the more recent times, resources are becoming strained, patients having to wait for hours in A&E. 

We as doctors try to help everyone to the best of our abilities with the resources at hand. Unfortunately, these resources are declining as attendance by patients increase. In a situation like this, healthcare professionals have no other option than to get involved with politics. As much as the news makes it about pay, the real problem is the lack of staff. Ever being cut, increasing the total workload per healthcare staff member. We want the best for you, our patients, however when we have 8 of you at once, each with something different, it becomes difficult, stressed and overwhelmingly tiring. Would you rather see someone who’s had 8 hours sleep and a tea break or someone who’s had 6 hours sleep and been working without a break for the last 10 hours?

Once again, I would love to hear your opinions on the situation, regarding the NHS.

Bah Humbug

Remember those days spent binge watching Scrubs. Remember all the fun they got up to. How I remember thinking this was how medicine was gonna be.

How naive of me…

If you think it’s all fun and games, where we party hard. It’s not, at least not for us graduate entry.

We’ve been back 6 weeks since Christmas (overall 10 days off since Sept 1st). Before you say it, yes this is what I signed up for and I shouldn’t be so surprised. Although getting home at 7pm after a 9am start for the last 6 weeks is getting a bit old. Especially since we’re not actually seeing any patients. Pre-clinical theory in one year, who thought that would be a good idea!!

The idea of getting out onto wards is the gold at the end of the rainbow, except this rainbow is mainly varying shades of grey.

Ah well, time to do some more work before bed. Be a waste of time otherwise 😉

A little extra reading..

For any of you wanting to get in to the world of medicine, make sure you want it. If you’re fortunate to apply, work experience won’t be the only thing universities will be looking for.

As a suggestion, read some books and/or journals, watch the news, watch videos (Ted talks are fantastic). Some books that med schools love are those that not only look at the amazing world of medicine but also the ethical and sometimes terrible side.

Here are some of those books, all of which fantastically written.

Do No Harm – Henry Marsh

One for those of you who wish to go in to neurosurgery/surgery. Delves into the depths of some of the most difficult decisions a doctor can make.

When Breath Becomes Air – Paul Kalanithi

A neurosurgeon with an english literature degree who was diagnosed with an inoperable lung cancer who passed away in 2015. His book accounts his journey after diagnosis through being a patient as well as a surgeon. Paul died during the writing of the book which is perfectly concluded by his wife, Lucy.

Being Mortal – Atul Gawande

Another practising surgeon who fearlessly reveals the struggles of the profession as well as looking at its limitations and failures as live draws to a close. Atul explores the difficulty doctors often experience in dealing with death, including the anxiety of families, false hope and treatments which shorten lives in a hope to save those patients, all while that families go along with it.

The Patient Will See You Now – Eric Topol

Eric Topol looks at the modern day advances in technology and how these affect the daily lives of doctors. How the advance of smartphones can give rise to a new personal medicine to allow people to get tests and diagnoses without having to wait for a GP appointment. He looks at the difficulties such as security and the longstanding medical establishment but also envisions a new, cheaper, more accessible health care system.

When looking to apply/applying for medicine it’s important to remember the ethics and dilemmas facing medicine on a daily basis. Open your mind and you’ll achieve great things!

What’s Your Hobby? Conferencing?!

Many say that a life in medicine is a way of life rather than a career. However, like any successful career, you get out of it what you put in to it. It just so happens that medicine is one of the few careers that requires more than just 9-5 education.

Throughout life people will tell you to get a hobby, go outside, meet new people and do something new and different. Without these things life gets boring and you will burnout.

So how to do these things when you have little money, little spare time yet you want to feel like accomplishing something?

I go to conferences.

Yes it sounds dull and boring. Yet I have had some of the best times at these events. As a medical student, every doctor wants you in their speciality. So in order to grab your attention, many put on lecture-light, hands on workshops-heavy conferences.

In October, a group of us ventured to Swansea for a cardiology conference aimed specifically at medical students. While the first day required some attention – all lectures- most of the lecturers were engaging and not simply trying to out do each other. The second day encompassed cardiac suturing, ECG and case studies workshops, aortic valve replacement and emergency treatment of acute cardiac patients. I mean come on, which med students wouldn’t want to try some of those things. Also, a certificate for those vitally important portfolios(!).

This weekend just gone, a similar group of us travelled to Sheffield for a surgical conference organised by the Royal College of Surgery of Edinburgh. 3 brief lectures, each individually captivating and eye-opening. One looking at the life of a cardiac surgeon, one on military surgery and the difference between the careers and the final talk on breast cancer from a patients point-of-view, the patient happening to be a consultant breast cancer surgeon.

The workshops were picked before arriving. My choices were:

  • Cricothyroidotomy – emergency airway management and surgery to enable a patent airway
  • Sebaceous Cyst Excision – Using porcine tissue, we excised a fig (acting as a lipoma) and a cod liver oil tablet (sebaceous cyst) from the tissue and sutured it up.
  • Laparoscopy – practise key-hole surgery (using the tools and camera to move around objects and perform motor tasks with the equipment. Somehow ended up winning a certificate for best laparoscopic technique at the conference, which considering I’m a 1st year student surrounded by attendees ranging from 1st year students to 2nd year core trainees, i’m quite proud.

Conferences are great. As a student they’re cheap to attend, you network with consultants at the top of their fields, you meet other students from other universities and if you have research, you can present with prizes given for the best presentations. While it still feels work related, a change of scenery and personnel can do a world of good.