Whether your medical course is integrated and you have patient contact from the start, or whether its more traditional and you study the science first, a day in the life of a clinical medical student is similar.
You will experience placements in general medicine and surgery but also in the specialities including paediatrics, obstetrics and gynaecology, general practice etc.
The following outlines a typical day in the life of a clinical medical students on a general surgical, or colorectal ward.
Here the night team and the day team come together to discuss the patients. The night registrar will discuss any patients that have been admitted overnight and any patients on the ward who have been sick and needed medical treatment. They will also discuss any jobs that need to be carried out by the day team. As a student it is great to be in these meetings so you can learn not only about acute surgical admissions but also common medical and surgical problems. Also it is a great place to see how doctors communicate and work with each other for the best care of the patient. In addition, you can start to practice making notes and planning what you would prioritise if you were the junior doctor.
You will be part of the team caring for the patients. The team may include consultants, registrars, foundation year 1 and 2, nurses and specialist nurses and medical students. You may also be joined by other members of the multidisciplinary team including dieticians and physios. You will review all the patients who fall under the consultant you are shadowing. You will see a variety of patients including post-op patients and patients who have been admitted and are still undergoing tests to ascertain their problem. The junior doctors will write in the notes, prescribe medication and make a note of any jobs that need carrying out. As a medical student you can often help with these tasks
As a medical student you often have the choice of how you structure your day. Some days you may want to go and watch the consultant operating. Once you have developed a relationship with your team you may be fortunate enough to be allowed to scrub in to allow yourself to get more hands on with the operation.
Alternatively, you may attend a consultant or registrar led clinic. This will often consist of new and follow up patients. The consultant will often be a specialist in a certain area e.g. vascular, colorectal, hepatobiliary and will see people with diseases affecting these body systems. They will assess each patient and it is a great opportunity to observe how a surgeon carries out a history and examination on a patient and the surgeon often will show you any interesting signs they observe. In some clinics you can speak to the patient before they see the doctor and present their history to the consultant.
The afternoon will be spent helping the junior doctors on the ward, doing jobs such as taking and reviewing bloods and scans and reviewing any sick patients. You will witness the unpredictable nature of patients and learn all about post op complications.
As a medical student it is great to shadow the on-call team as this will give you the opportunity to clerk patients. You will be able to speak to the patient before the doctor to take a history, perform an examination and place a cannula/take bloods. Next you will be able to discuss with the doctor your thoughts on a potential diagnosis and how you would investigate the patient. It is a great experience to follow a patient’s journey so if they are admitted track the patient and visit them every day to see how their treatment plan progresses, if they need an operation you may even get to observe it!
5pm-6pm: Most of the junior doctors will leave except the on-call team. Before they leave as a medical student you can help by writing or printing blood cards for the patients who need bloods the next day and updating the patient list for the on-call team.
Now is the time to make notes on the patients you have seen today ensuring you maintain confidentiality, research more about their medical conditions and reflect on what you have learnt and seen. This will not only help you in your final exams but in your future career as a doctor.
As a medical student it is also great to try and witness a night shift as the atmosphere, stress levels and workload is very different than in the day!
A career as a doctor is challenging and requires dedication and perseverance. There will be hurdles along the way, but remember you have a very exciting career ahead of you and that is the ultimate goal to aim for. Good luck! If you want to talk to one of our consultants about your options, we will be happy to talk to you. Ring us on (0) 207 399 1990.
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