During my time as an undergraduate medical student I have struggled at a number of points. During the pre-clinical years, in particular, I found the style of teaching and learning difficult to engage with at times. The highly academic focus with limited patient contact was useful for developing my knowledge of the basic scientific principles of medicine, but I have always preferred learning in patient-based settings. This was the rationale for me omitting the (then) optional intercalated year of study and directly entering the clinical years of medicine. Now that I have reached the clinical years, the scientific learning from before has become contextualised and I now feel comfortable and confident putting it into practice. I can now begin to visualise the end-goal of becoming a clinical doctor and I thoroughly enjoy my work with both patients and clinicians alike.
In clinical medicine, we rotate in 4-6 week blocks around the specialities – for this blog post I will describe a standard day of my Obstetrics & Gynaecology rotation.
8am – pre-operative ward round.
We get kitted up in our scrubs and join the medical team on the ward for a handover from the night team. In Obs & Gynae these ward rounds could include pregnant people who might need a caesarean section, or some major gynae operations such as hysterectomies. These ward rounds are usually rapid but allow some time for us to meet the patients and briefly hear about their stories and clinical presentation.
9am – operating theatre
Once you are a senior student (and if you are lucky with the consultant!) you can get scrubbed up (handwashing and surgical gowning) which allows you to get involved with the operation. This might include suctioning some blood during a caesarean section or suturing some deep tissues in a gynae operation. For me, this was hugely superior to the cadavers we learn from in the pre-clinical years.
12am – lunchtime tutorial
Quick lunch whilst a consultant gives us some formal teaching on an element of Obs & Gynae – this could be how to manage a natural delivery, dealing with miscarriages, communication scenarios or fertility treatments. Whilst in clinical years we do learn a lot of the important bits on the ward, we are still supported with more formal small tutorials.
1.30pm – clinic
Shadowing in a clinic allows medical students a chance to see a broad range of pathologies, but also to observe the history taking and clinical communication of the consultants – some clinics might include the high risk antenatal clinic (working with twin pregnancies or mothers with serious health conditions), the fertility clinic or the general gynaecology clinic.
Most of our days will finish by 4/5pm – and a lot of our weeks will include a few half days, so we often maintain the same amount of free time as previous years of university. For Obs & Gynae, medical students are expected to attend at least two night shifts – during these we get involved with a lot more things such as assisting with natural deliveries (most medical students will deliver a baby!), take blood from patients, assist in C-sections or take histories from patients directly.
In clinical medicine placements you are often welcomed as part of the clinical team and have the privilege of speaking and engaging with really impressive doctors and interesting patients every day. For those of you struggling with the idea of text book learning, PBL or dissertations for intercalated degrees – have faith that patient contact in clinics and suturing wounds in theatres are just around the corner!