The last month of Medical School has been by far the most intense and hectic yet. While most students across the country have started their summer holiday, we have begun our third year, the period from June until January is referred to as Phase Two. This phase is renowned for being challenging; this is largely in part to it being the start of our clinical years.
We have just finished a month-long block in our clinical skills department to learn all of the examinations and procedures that we will be expected to be able to perform in hospitals (and in the OSCE) this year. I have found that this kind of knowledge can’t be attained by reading through textbooks and notes, but by practising again and again.
Luckily for us, our clinical skills department is brand new, and more important – in my opinion – than the new facilities and equipment is the huge number of ‘patients as educators’ Sheffield has. Over 750 people in and around Sheffield have signed up to come into our clinical skills department at various times so we can learn by practising examinations on them.
For me, the time that they donate is invaluable. The confidence I have gained from meeting these patients is immeasurable, and when my placements begin in mid-July I can go into them knowing I have already practised my examination techniques and I have taken histories before. I am fully aware that I have hardly scratched the surface in terms of medical knowledge out there; this means that the patients I am meeting, who have been examined by years of students before me, have so much to offer. They are all experts in their particular diseases and have no problem answering any questions we might throw at them.
For the next two weeks I am back in lectures and am finding them much more interesting this year. The last two years have been about setting up a strong base knowledge and understanding of how the body works and how disease affects it, but in the last month I have really started to feel like a medical student. I have spent time in a hospital before but it was mainly just for the experience of talking to patients and to get used to the environment. However, in little over a week I will be going into an Endocrine ward to practise everything that I have just learned, and to me that thought is surreal.
By the next issue I will have had my first taste of what it is to be a doctor, and I look forward to sharing that with you.