Last week, I had my first experience as a medical student on placement! I went with 6 of my peers to Bairnsdale, where we were able to spend some time following doctors around in the hospital and in GP clinics.
I honestly found this experience incredibly profound, and I’ve found that it’s strengthened my desire to pursue medicine as a career. During this placement, I was able to take a medical history from a few patients, conduct some examinations and overall feel like a “real” medical student.
Even though it was a fairly short experience, I’ve realised that I learnt a lot about the medical system, and what working in hospitals is like.
First, working with patients is SO MUCH more gratifying than studying through medical textbooks and lectures. Even though I talk about studying a lot, this placement highlighted that having hands on experience is an incredibly powerful learning tool. Things that would’ve taken me a while to learn through independent learning took significantly more meaning when presented through the lens of real people with real medical conditions. I felt inspired to develop a depth and breath of knowledge in medicine, and it filled me with confidence heading into next year, where all of my learning will be done in hospitals. I think that there is a lot here that I can apply to studying in general, and I might talk about it in some following newsletters :)
Second, staying at a hospital all day is a buzz, but extremely tiring. Even though I was essentially being babied through my activities, I realised that I was completely exhausted at the end of my days. During the day, time felt like it was flying past, but when I got home, I would feel like napping or doing nothing productive for the rest of the day. I think that there’s something about the hospital environment that makes it buzz with energy, which also means that you end up tired at the end of the day. As a positive note, even though I was tired, I loved my time at the hospital and always felt like going back.
Third, GPs in rural areas do so much work. My time at a local GP clinic was one of the best rotations I had during the placement, and I realised that many of the GPs in the area were working ridiculously hard. Access to healthcare in rural Australia is difficult, and many GPs have waiting times of a month or more. In addition, the vast majority of the GPs I saw working also had further specialisation, for example in obstetrics and anaesthetics. I was inspired by the significant work that they did, and I realised that they certainly carry the burden of the health system in those areas.
The time I spent during rural placement was enlightening and a very powerful experience. I had a wonderful time in the hospital, and I don’t think I can fully do the experience justice in writing. Ultimately, this experience reassured me that I had picked the right career, and I found that interacting with patients encouraged me to work harder and to take the privilege of studying medicine seriously.