Crash call! All hands on deck

In the hospital, crash call alarms are the single alarm that you both dread and look forward to. It’s the one time doctors and nurses (and anyone who is available) get closest to being a paramedic. On one hand its terrible because a crash call means that something bad has happened to a patient for which ALL HANDS ON DECK are needed to get that patient back to a stable state. And that’s sad. Because the patient is sick. However it’s also adrenaline rush inducing. The atmosphere of the whole ward changes. Everyone is focussed on the patient. From the most juniour members (us medical students) to the nurses and juniour doctors, right up to the consultant. There is something for every body to do.

Today morning, a crash call alarm went off on the ward I was on. We were in the middle of a ward round and suddenly the two doctors around me and a bunch of nurses ran to the place where the alarm was coming from. I, along with the other two medical students, rushed along too. From the peripheries I could just make out that the patient was on the floor – not responding. The doctors and nurses worked together in a calm yet fast manner to get bloods, a cannula in and IV access. The patient’s vital signs (blood pressure, temperature, blood glucose levels, heart rate and respiratory rate). were all normal This was important to check because people don’t just fall down and loose consciousness for no reason! I helped too by running to the labs with the blood to check for any abnormalities.

Whilst this was all going on, the rest of the patients in the ward had to also be looked at. Normally on a ward round in hospitals, you have a few doctors checking each patient, every day. Well today, the crash call meant that only the consultant was available to carry on. I went along with the consultant – intending to help with small things like getting the curtains around the bed, opening up the observation charts and holding the notes. The actual doctoring part, I normally leave to the professionals. But we were low on doctors and that meant I had to write the patient notes myself (DISCLAIMER: This was obviously checked and signed off by the consultant!).

It certainly was an interesting morning…and just made me appreciate how unpredictable working in a hospital is!




Ward Rounds, Bloods and flying stethoscopes…

Medical dramas on TV were my favourite because I always imagined myself to be like Turk from Scrubs – cool and smart, or Dr. House – grumpy but loveable or Meredith from Grey’s anatomy – dramatic and brilliant, her hair always perfect.

This was me Monday morning: Stethoscope falling out of my bag, having no clue where the patient files are kept and forgetting my water bottle so that by 5:30 pm on my first day on emergency medicine placement, I looked more like a drowned rat than a medical student on placement.

Placement is essentially practical, hands-on experience at doing what doctors do. Except I know less than half of what the most juniour doctor knows and I’m pretty sure that I’m getting in the way more than I’m actually helping. Not to mention being a medical student qualifies me to be able to do exactly nothing on my own – and patients know this!

Take this morning, for example. I was sat in an acute ambulatory unit in the acute medical unit, waiting to take blood samples (venupuncture) for the first time ever on a real patient. Previously I’d always practiced on a mannequin. The first patient just flat out refused. The second one looked a little dubious but agreed in the end but his arm kept shaking, revealing his inner doubts on my ability (not entirely misplaced!). The thirds patient was eerily calm. That was good and I managed my first ever independent venupuncture. There was red stuff coming out…pretty sure it was blood!

Hospitals are busy places. You have acutely sick patients. Porters moving beds and patients around the wards. Nurses caring for their patients, doctors doing this that and other. And the bustling wards are a beautiful place to learn about the weird, common, rare and simple interesting pathologies of the human body. A sick heart can make so many sounds. Just a quick listen can illicit if somebody has a pleural effusion or more like a pneumonia. A quick chat to a nurse will tell you whether the patient is a returning patient or a new admission. The juniour doctors always know what management plan a patient is on. You simply can’t get bored. I do feel selfish in the knowledge that whilst I am here I’m really only helping myself learn.

But there’s always a moment that you remember. And I think for me today it was a small fraction of a second that sealed the deal for me. We were on ward and I wasn’t doing anything particular. All I did was look up whilst I was examining a patient and smile. I apologised for taking so long and not letting the patient finish a sudoku puzzle.

The patient just smiled back and replied: ‘you are the future. You’ve got to learn somehow’

It occurred to me quite suddenly that placement is fun and enjoyable and really exciting. But at the same time I’m not just learning for myself. By ensuring I know my medicine properly today, I’m having an impact, however small, on the lives of real people. They’re not just a disease. They’re a person.

I walked out from the ward whilst relatives were visiting. And as I walked near the doors, the patient from this morning recognised me and said ‘goodbye’.

I don’t know why but it made me smile. I might not be Turk or Dr. House or Meredith. But these small moments make me feel even more cool and smart and on top form than any doctor I’ve seen on TV.

After all, TV is fiction and hospital medicine is reality!



“You have hair on your chin…”

A couple of months before my 15th birthday, my mum took me into the doctor’s surgery. The following weeks revolved around concerned parents, blood tests, lots of doctors including paediatricians, gynaecologists, endocrinologists and even radiologists and finally a diagnosis of PCOS.

PCOS, short for Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, is an endocrinological disorder which affects the hormones oestrogen and testosterone. It results in multiple small follicles (eggs) in the ovaries which struggle to mature. The main result of this is irregular periods. The high testosterone results in male pattern hair growth and skin problems.  Continue reading

Reflection on Term 1 of Medical School

I started medical school about 5 months ago with a lot of excitement and moderate levels of apprehension. Whilst some myths were debunked (No, I don’t have to actually use a needle on a patient until a long while later!) some held true…(Yes, PBL and tutorials are basically fun chats while eating snacks and discussing hypothetical patients). Believe it or not, I actually know how a stethoscope works now, I can kind of communicate with you about your pain and I actually know more science than I thought I did. Continue reading

Medicine in the media – Part 1

Media is a fairly new concept. Medicine on the other hand has existed in some form or the other ever since human kind has been getting sick. The depiction of the medical industry is often one that is used for different purposes in media. Be it the news coverage of ‘Ebola’ or the political elements of a ‘privatised healthcare and demolition of the NHS’ or even the romanticisation of being a doctor as is often shown in Television programs.

It all comes down to one point: As long as media depicts medicine, the public’s fascination with it will continue.

Continue reading

An emotional roller-coaster week and the Hippocratic Oath

As this week draws to an end, I reflect and realise that it has been a very emotionally charged week. I have had periods of euphoria and moments of fear. Phases of grief and agonising seconds of shock. I have been happy, grateful, calm and at peace as well. But then this was a rather exceptional week in quite a few ways…

Monday began and someone very close to me began a new job after a long period of speed bumps in the road we call life. I was eternally grateful that the tide had turned. It also brought home to me the importance of keeping ourselves sane and grateful even in adversity. Otherwise our mental health can really suffer. On Monday I also received a few emails for personal statement help. Having never been in a position to be of use to anyone really, this was a moment of pride and happiness. Finally something I had done was actually helping someone. (They say that its only clinicians and medics who are constantly feeling grateful that someone wants their help! Guess I chose the right profession…)

On Thursday I graduated. With the full academic gown, national anthem being sung (which I’m ashamed to say I don’t know the full lyrics to), hand-shaking with the esteemed principle and most importantly sharing a very important moment in my career with the most important people in my life. Emotions that day were all over the place…mostly because there was no phone signal in the graduation centre so none of us could find each other for congratulating/picture-taking…I also felt a sense of honour to share the stage with so many successful and brilliant people. From fellow graduates to our professors to phD students and those being awarded honour degrees due to special recognition and contribution to the scientific community. For me, what stood out the most was that I was at the cusp of something big. A stepping stone, if you will, onto a future which I had only imagined from this end of the ‘football pitch’ of my career. And as the medical graduates recited the Hippocratic Oath, along with the principle, a small bubble of excitement and awe erupted inside of me. One day I too will pledge to become a good, faithful and genuine doctor. But until then, here is the oath which is the first and final prayer of a doctor, nurse, paramedic, health care assistant and any individual who finds themselves responsible for another human being. Although written by Hippocrates (A greek philosopher/ physician) in the 5th century B.C.E, its still relevant in today’s modern day and medical practise. I do urge you to read it and understand it, especially if you are in the medical field. Here is a quote from the original text:

Make a habit of two things: To help, or at least, to do no harm – Hippocrates.

But on Thursday I also heard a very shocking and sad news. A student of a local school, a friend of many close friends of mine, had sadly passed away in a tragic accident. Although I didn’t know this person, I felt numb and a little helpless. Who knows when we could get ill, hurt, or die. All we can do is minimise the chances of it happening. It made me acutely aware that everything I had achieved and stood for, I did for survival. In death, my name and fame will mean nothing. Death won’t pick and choose. Death is random and inevitable. And so it is even more important to be grateful, happy and forgiving. To love and smile. To hug and kiss and laugh. And to do it today. Because we don’t know what tomorrow will bring.

My brother often says (thought he didn’t come up with the quote):

The past is history, the future is a mystery. Today is a gift and that is why it is called the present.

I wish all of you a very happy, healthy and safe weekend!