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Life as a medical student: Working with patients

vicky hargest medical pre-medical student“Student selected components (SSCs) are not just about research and essays; they are also designed to offer us clinical exposure and patient interaction even at this early stage,” explains Vicky Hargest, medical student.

The Community Attachment Scheme (CAS) is part of the SSC programme which focuses on the psychological and social aspect of health and illness. Working in pairs, we were attached to a patient in the community who was either pregnant, living with a chronic illness or a disability in order to learn about the impact their health had on their lives.

Getting to know the patient

As we arrived at our patient’s home my partner and I were a little anxious about having to ask some very personal questions. We need not have worried though as she turned out to be very friendly and more than willing to share the story of her chronic illnesses.

We met with her numerous times after that, both at her home and in hospital so we could build rapport and get an accurate picture of her life. We then met with her GP and a behavioural scientist to further develop our understanding of illness in society before producing an essay which expressed our own attitudes and beliefs on the subject. I found this a very gentle introduction to patients and one which really allowed me time to reflect and improve my communication skills.

Working with medical professionals

The highlight of this year’s SSCs has without doubt been the ICE (Intensive Clinical Experience). For two weeks all first year medics are let loose in hospitals around Yorkshire to observe doctors and nurses and to practice taking patient histories.

I spent one week with diabetic nurses where I assisted or observed many tasks such as testing blood glucose levels, monitoring blood pressure, retinal screening and treating peripheral ulcerations. The range of skills across the nursing profession and the high level of interaction with patients were the things that surprised me most.

The secret world of anaesthetics

My second week was spent with the anaesthetists which was an amazing experience that exceeded my expectations. Anaesthetics is not about administering a quick ‘sleeping pill’ and then going for a coffee while the surgeons take over. It is a job which requires many skills. Meeting patients before surgery requires sensitivity and reassurance, initial administration of drugs and oxygen requires speed and accuracy and responding to patients’ needs during the operation requires an outstanding knowledge of physiology and pharmacology.

Throughout the week I was lucky enough to observe a variety of operations including knee replacements, hernia repairs and caesarean sections, each requiring a different form of anaesthetic. I thoroughly enjoyed these two weeks and I would certainly consider anaesthetics as a future career, but then again, I have so much more to see!

About Vicky

Vicky Hargest is a medical student at the University of Sheffield. Although she has an arts degree (health studies) she has taken the pre-med route (six year course) in order to learn foundation sciences.

She is the first in her family to enter higher education - proving that medicine is for people of all ages and backgrounds.

Having worked in medical education for the last six years she is now seeing things from the other side of the fence.

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