Presently, I am sitting behind my desk, tying up virtual loose ends - replying to old emails and fb messages, looking up places to have dinner in Nadi (Fiji), deciding what to "do next"...
I'm in the final of my four-week elective in Anaesthetics at Westmead Hospital - officially the last week of uni too (even though I completed and passed the final exams a good six weeks ago!). Absolutely loved the elective - I think I got really lucky in striking the right dose (for me) with regard to setting and content. If you had asked a more starry-eyed me four years ago, at the beginning of med school, what I planned to do for my elective term in my last year of med school - I probably would have sought something a little bit more adventurous than what I have done. Certainly, Trauma Surgery in Johannesburg did cross my mind at one point or another. But I have no regrets. At the end of the day, among other things I have learnt about the "system", I know that there are far less prudent things to do than spending a month with a department of career/academic interest to you, in a hospital you will be based at for (potentially) a fair few years. I'm still a bit unsure as to what the purpose of the elective term is, so I guess as long as each student has their own agenda and outcomes - as with many things in life - what you put it is what you will get out. My objectives were low-key and modest:
1. I wanted to familiarise myself with the route from my house to Westmead by car (and parking!!), as well as the layout of some of the hospital grounds; so that I don't have to stress about it early on next year.
2. Learn some more about Anaesthetics beyond what I learnt during my official Anaesthetics term earlier on in the year (btw - if we haven't spoken in a while, just an update - Anaesthetics wasn't chosen arbitrarily... I am just thinking of heading in that direction as a speciality... but more on that another day).
So, end of story - I haven't put in any chest drains as my colleagues in South Africa have done... but at least I know where I'm supposed to be for my first day of internship next year! Snaps for me :-D Logistics aside, I also did happen to fulfill my second objective and I picked up a lesson or two in Anaesthetic theory and practice during my time with the Department. Because I like making lists, here is an abridged list of what I learnt/practiced (medically) during my elective:
- Cannulations +++ (what at least 20% of my work next year will involve, so never a waste of time practicing this one!)
- Maintaining an airway and ventilating using a bag-mask system (for non-med people, supporting someone's airway and helping them breathe with some basic equipment. Again, important skill to know, even if it will (hopefully) not be needed that often)
- Use/insertion of specific airway support equipment and adjuncts, e.g. intubation (sticking a breathing tube down someone's trachea to deliver air/oxygen straight to their airways. Okay, so this skill I will never have to do as an intern, but still cool to know nonetheless ;-)
- Doing the above on morbidly obese/clinically unstable/medically co-morbid patients.
- Pharmacology - what and how much/often to prescribe for two common (esp post-operative) complaints: pain and nausea/vomiting (this is an area that I knew very little about in practice, despite it being covered at some point during the course)
- Plus other tid-bits of information specific to Anaesthetic practice, which I shan't bore you with.
Standing outside Colonial War Memorial Hospital, Dec 2008