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Day in the life: A med student on placement

Day in the life: A med student on placement


Follow Hannah Hawker around for a day in the life of a med student on placement.

Written by Hannah Hawker

The day begins at 5:30am … and that’s not compulsory.

An early start!
An early start!

Trundle Multi Purpose Health Service

I arrive at Trundle MPS, a sensational centre with a GP clinic, ED, residential aged care and acute and palliative rooms all rolled into one. I sit with Dr Jason Maher and we go through his inbox for results or communications, and the patients booked in for the morning session. ED calls with a young man presenting with breathing problems so we quickly duck up the corridor.

Working at the Trundle Multi Purpose Health Service.
Working at the Trundle Multi Purpose Health Service.

Under Dr Maher’s watchful eye I perform a respiratory examination whilst he asks the patient and their Mum some questions and gives a tutorial on effective use of a puffer and how a chest infection can impact someone with asthma. They’re discharged and we’re back to the GP clinic to welcome the first patient.

Before every patient comes into his room, Dr Maher informs them he has a medical student with him and asks for their consent for me to sit in on the consultation.

Today, for the first time, the patient hesitates. She says yes, and he asks her again, noting her hesitation. She again says yes but neither of us are convinced she is comfortable so Dr Maher invites me to take the opportunity to get a coffee.

It is not personal and not in the slightest bit offensive. To consider the number of patients I’ve watched discuss incredibly private things with physicians, and who I’ve poked and prodded and practiced on, it’s far more outstanding to me that it has taken 18 months of medical study before I have encountered this for the first time.

People are truly wonderful.

Besides, I did have that 5:30 start so no complaint here!

Quick coffee break at Grain & Press in Trundle.
Quick coffee break at Grain & Press in Trundle.

Big shout out to Grain & Press of Trundle, delicious and quick coffee and a great range of quick grab treats as well as full meal options!

The rest of the morning in the clinic was really interesting:

  • New scripts for a few patients with really interesting chats around the different medications and all the why/why nots of each.
  • A patient diagnosed with diabetes given the news and then education around the condition and management.
  • The draining of an olecranon bursitis.

Nurses from the residential aged care contact the Doctor about a worrying ECG and we head up there to check it out. The delightful, 96yo patient made a point to tell us both to look after ourselves as we were leaving.

I then get the opportunity to practice my aseptic (sterile) technique when I take a biopsy of a suspected skin cancer and then stitch the excision site. Which was very cool!

— Half of our fortnight of placement is with a GP and half is in the hospital so I’ll cheat a bit with my “day” and tell you about one afternoon in Parkes hospital.

Parkes Hospital

I put my theater scrubs on and “scrub in” – a very intense handwash before you go into the theater room itself and put your gown and gloves on.

Keeping sterile is a pretty full on experience and I find theatre days exhausting just because of the added mental load of constantly thinking about where your hands are, what you can and can’t touch, and not bumping into anything outside of the sterile field.

It’s almost certain you’ll get an itchy nose too.

I am grateful for the theatre nurses who must get a third eye when students are in the room, giving you a stern word if your hands are dropping or you look like you’re about to touch something you shouldn’t.

Hannah ready to enter the Operating Theatre.
Hannah ready to enter the Operating Theatre.

I’m in there with a 3rd year Charles Sturt student, my friend Jess, and it is amazing to watch her assist the surgeon and to know that’ll be me in 12 months. It was super special to get the chance to assist her when she sutured a lesion closed during one op.

I got my first go of an electrocauterization tool (that seals vessels) and it was pretty intense at first but I think I got a bit burn-happy towards the end. A very cool little tool.

The last patient of the day was an emotional one and Jess caught my eyes a few times to check how I was doing. A senior doctor checked on everyone in the room after the conclusion of the procedure and it was nice to see how the unspoken difficulty just moved everyone to look after each other that extra little bit.

After a very intense semester of study, placement was the pick me up I needed; to be in these great places with the brilliant doctors and nurses practicing my skills.

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