Knowledge and Experience.
Whether you are a medical, dental or any kind of health sciences student, elective posting is a great way to gain insights of the working experience in a hospital. Here is a little of bit of my experience doing a 3-week elective posting in one of the hospitals in Malaysia.
Here in Kajang Hospital, the environment is quite chill. Aside from the usual busy traffic, everything seems peaceful. Ward 7B, the paediatrics ward. At 8 AM the doctors and staff sisters would sit around in the children’s playing room, attending the passovers. Well, think of it as a briefing, hearing the summary of each and every patient in the wards, presented by the house officers (HOs) and medical officers (MOs). Use it as a ‘take note’ time, of the important cases to be clerked and physical examinations to be done later. Afterwards, join the rounds with the specialists, where we get to observe the expertise of the doctors handling patients and doing health assessments. It is a great way to pick up some skills, indeed.
What kind of cases to expect? There are quite a number of chest cases; bronchopneumonia, asthma, bronchiolitis. Others are febrile fits, acute gastroenteritis and dengues. These are among the commonest ones to name a few. Do not expect any malnutrition cases here. The social demography is not identical as the one we are used to in Egypt. The cases are also filtered, quite a lot, since this hospital is just a district one. They are usually referred to bigger hospitals.
Though I got posted in paeds, I actually spent quite a lot of time hanging out in the A&E department. That is where the cases get really interesting. Vehicle accidents, gang-beating injuries, diabetic ketoacidosis, depression, and even suicide attempts with poisons. We get to see how the medical officers deal with all kinds of patients, including mentally-ill ones. Lots of wow-moments presented there. It also helps that the doctors were kind of friendlier and surprisingly more educative, along with the medical assistant (MAs) and paramedics.
We are not so few, us elective posters. 5 guys from Cairo, 2 from Azhar, and 5 seniors from Mansoura, along with a bunch of other students from local universities and other countries, all spread in different departments. It kind of turned out to be a situation of ‘oversupply of electives’.
Being an elective poster, some of us did not really get to do any procedure due to a lack of supervisor. So we, the ones without one, did it the old fashioned way. That is practicing drawing blood on each other. Splendid.
This case in particular was second degree burns from spilled hot soup. Helping Dr. Ihsan changing a patient’s daily dressings.
Challenges? It is different for each of us. Personally I think it is in finding the right stuff to do and fulfilling my own expectations. And not to forget, being questioned. Feeling dumb is the normal thing here, and that is not a bad thing at all. Even If you answered well, there are still thousands of things you do not know. So just keep learning.
Being medical students studying abroad, it is important for us to take some time to familiarize with the local systems and terms. TRO? MDI? TCA? No it is not triyclic antidepressant. This TCA means ‘to come again’. Stuff like this may make things a bit puzzling for newbies. So, making friends with the local students and doctors really helps a lot.
Things are not always positive as there are some dark sides of working in a hospital as well. You get to see the dreaded, occasional ‘houseman abuse’, live in action. The way I see it, they are not scolded without a reason. It is an act out of hope and expectation from the veterans, for them to learn; ‘the generations’ that will replace them in the future. Well, that is just my humble opinion though.
Spending some time here, reminds me that it is not enough to just read out of the books. A proverb once said, “Knowledge is power, but experience is king”.
Tips, be proactive. You would not gain much if you are in the backseat all the time. Doctors are busy and exhausted creatures. Surely, they do not have the time to babysit you. If you want to know something, do not hesitate to ask. Just try to not be a nuisance to them.
Find seniors to teach you stuff in their free time. Egypt graduates are plenty everywhere, even from Cairo. Also, take it easy not to burn out! Most of the time we would only stay till Zuhr before going out and hanging out somewhere fun. Well, it is summer holiday after all.
Before you know it, the 3 weeks will end. It was fun while it lasted. In the end, there were some fulfilling and depressing moments, but all of them totally priceless experiences. Although it was not the most exciting thing in the world, but for the job prospects, it was worth it. Definitely, it was an eye opener. At least do it once in your study years!
This attachment diary is written by Wan Ahmad Fawwaz bin Wan Fuad-a final year medical student at Kasr Al-Ainy Medical School. Writes only in occasion. He’s quite the avid Tolkien and mangas reader. Loves scribbling and travelling.