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Life as a pre-medical student: Clinical skills

vicky hargest medical pre-medical studentVicky Hargest tells us about her experiences as a pre-medical student. This time her year group visits a clinical skills centre and Vicky gets a taste of venepuncture and intramuscular injections. Not sure what they are? Then read on to find out.

When the pre-med year group were invited to visit the Clinical Skills Centre at one of the Sheffield Teaching Hospitals we had little idea of what to expect. Many of us had encountered the back-breaking Resus Anne training manikin (the life-size dummy used for practice) in the past, but had not yet experienced anything more clinical than observing others during work shadowing.

Viewing the facilities

Having previously read the General Medical Council’s publication 'Tomorrow’s Doctors' I was aware of the clinical (and communication) skills that medical students would have to master. With two clinical skills centres dedicated to training students, Sheffield medical school evidently adhered to the recommendations set out in the document.

On arrival to the main centre we were met by the medical education team who showed us the facilities that we would have access to in September. These included a five-bed and a 17-bed replica ward, a communication room with two-way mirrors, a dark room with fibre optic ophthalmoscopes and otoscopes, two seminar rooms plus kitchen and shower facilities. Most of the facilities are open 24 hours so that medical students can maximise self-directed learning and have somewhere to go when the exam related insomnia kicks in.

Putting our skills to the test

After the tour we were divided into small groups and given the opportunity to try our hand at some of 19 clinical skills listed by the General Medical Council. Attempting Venepuncture and Intramuscular injections, or in layman’s terms ‘taking blood’ and ‘administering a drug’ was a great introduction to clinical skills. Fortunately we were not let loose on members of the public, but were able to practice on dummies that quietly tolerated our unsteady hands. As well as attempting to master the technical side of such procedures we also discussed some important measures such as ensuring you have the correct patient and correct drug, putting the patient at ease through communication, reducing pain and self protection.

The importance of good hygiene

After completing the ‘sharps’ skills we were then given a pep talk about the importance of hand washing. With increased reports of MRSA and Clostridium difficile in hospitals it is vital that health professionals and indeed patients and visitors are aware of infection control. The demonstration that followed was extremely thorough, lasting a full two minutes. Putting this into context the average domestic hand wash lasts about 10 seconds. This is a tedious but necessary task.

The Clinical Skills Centre was impressive and the staff showed complete dedication to the needs of the students. With OSCEs (Objective Structure Clinical Examinations) in the not too distant future it was fantastic boost to the morale of this pre-med team.

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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