February 2, 2015
Article by Global Pre-Meds
Hospital doctor shadowing & global health experience programs.
It’s a very funny feeling when you finally realise exactly what you want to do in life. A mixture of relief, because you have somewhere solid to aim for, and angst, as you realise what a huge undertaking you have committed yourself to. I stumbled upon Medicine completely by accident when I undertook a work experience placement, that I thought was going to be in the Haematology and Biochemistry labs at my local hospital. As it turned out, there was a mix-up and I was put on a placement shadowing junior doctors for a week on the front line. This was kind of bad news to me at the time: as a passionate science student, naturally I wanted to spend all of my time looking through microscopes, and growing cultures in petri-dishes. But I’ll explain:
There are some films where a young couple are shocked to learn that they are having a baby. When it comes, they’re not ready, and don’t know how to handle it, but they learn over time and inevitably become pretty great parents. My first interaction with a patient was a lot like one of these films. I was updating patient folders on the ward where I was based, when I went into a side room to see a patient who was watching TV. Awkward and nervous, I stood at the bedside planning my next action, when she mistakenly referred to me as ‘doctor’. I laughed and explained her mistake, putting us both at ease, and then started to talk to her about what she was watching; I subtly asked the questions on the chart about her pain, and I was fully satisfied that like the new parents in the movies, I’d learnt from experience.
My main focus of the week was shadowing junior doctors in the Urology department. As unglamorous a department as this might seem, I found the experience invaluable, and was so interested in what the doctors could find from examinations. Having learnt about the renal system in school, the doctor I was following told me about each case before we entered the room and I was able to apply some of my own learning to the situation at hand. Cases of bladder stones, kidney rupture and nephrostomies were a few examples of the possibly hundreds of cases I saw in that week: the most exciting times came when you went down to the emergency department, where the atmosphere changed to one of tension and excitement and I got my first glimpses of emergency medicine.
I actually got the opportunity to visit the fabled labs in the end, but by the time i got there, had a tour and explored some of the science involved in blood transfusions and haematology, I was engaged by the scientific aspect, but I couldn’t hide from the fact that I missed being with the patients, talking to them and seeing the doctors help them through their injuries and illnesses with one-to-one cooperation:
Medicine is the perfect marriage between the science that fascinates me, and the interaction with people which I love. I’m about to start my next hospital work experience placement, not to mention my GapMedics placement in Morogoro coming up this summer, and honestly, I can’t wait to get back on the wards.
So it goes to show, people change: although I had never intended to shadow a doctor, or to see any patients, this was now all I wanted to do: This is where I want to be.