“Are you ‘with it’ enough to do photocopying?” That was just one of the questions I was asked on my first ever day of work experience at my local hospital. Being only sixteen and quite apprehensive I felt as though I was either in the way or out of the action. I had been told to wait in an office and was starting to feel abandoned when suddenly a sharp-tongued nurse burst in and demanded this of me.
My first day, spent in A&E, was not the most informative. Luckily for me the following few days, spent in the surgery, ante-natal, cardiology and paediatric departments, were far more pleasurable experiences.
My next experience was at a GP surgery which could not have been more fun. Thrown straight into the thick of it I was given the opportunity to accompany the GP to the funeral directors to fill out a ‘crem form’. Despite my Mum’s absolute shock and horror when I texted her, I had no hesitation in agreeing to the visit as I was keen to gain first-hand experience of all aspects of a GP’s role – and so I was cheerfully introduced to the recently deceased Mr Smith.
Later that day, I shadowed a healthcare assistant whose main duty was to take blood. Much to my delight, this culminated in her asking if I would like to take her blood, with permission. I was elated after taking three phials on the first attempt – although I pity every single person who I regaled with this story over the next few weeks.
The rest of the week was spent shadowing the community matron, GP and nurse, with a day at the pharmacy. Collectively this probably made it my favourite placement.
I absolutely loved volunteering with St John Ambulance as this brought me into contact with a wide cross-section of the community. My first duty, at a rugby match, found me standing next to a keen supporter nicknamed “The Roarer”, for reasons that soon became very clear. In between roars, he made brave attempts to explain the rules to me. Thankfully, there were very few casualties needing attention that day. My next duty was the complete opposite – a school sports day. The most difficult challenge there was distinguishing between those who were genuinely ill or injured and those just trying to ‘skive off’ and have a go on our couch.
I also tried to involve myself in other enjoyable community activities which included lifeguarding, teaching swimming and helping in a Moroccan Berber village. I took on the philosophy of saying yes to any opportunity of interacting with the community, in hope that it might just prove to those admissions tutors that I had the right personality to become a doctor.
My final experience, watching a replacement knee operation at the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital, left me absolutely convinced that Medicine is the career that I would love to pursue. The only hurdle now is the interview.
Watch this space!