Study about the placement before going there! This includes brushing up on basic anatomy, history taking and examinations as required. Go through some common conditions in the allocated placement, for example, asthma or COPD for a respiratory placement.
Introduce yourself to the team! Don’t be scared to interact with them, they are people too.
Bring along a notebook to write down topics, interesting cases or helpful phrases used in explanation or history taking.
Be enthusiastic and proactive: create your own opportunities. You are going to get out of the placement as much as the effort you put in.
Don’t be afraid to ask to see your own patients on the wards or in clinic to take a history or do an examination or ask to do venepuncture/cannulation/catheter.
When in theatre, offer to scrub in for surgeries and look up patient details and any imaging before the operation.
In a busy placement, it might seem like you are always in the way of someone. Ask if there is anything helpful that you can do when this happens – the staff will thank you for it and you will get to experience something that you may not have expected in everyday life in the clinical setting.
While shadowing an inpatient team, you do get a good idea of what it is like in the day in the life of being a doctor, however, you are there to learn clinical skills and further your knowledge, not for rote learning (i.e. don’t be the one writing all the ward round notes all the time).
But there are a few things you should do at least once during your hospital placements (with supervision):
- Writing ward round notes
- Discharge summary
- Discharge script
- Medical certificate
- Charting medications.
Don’t forget self-care! It can be both exciting and exhausting when you get to experience medicine clinically, however, ward rounds or surgeries can be very long. You should also know the limitations of being a student on placement including what you can and can’t help with – so make sure to leave at an appropriate time as well as take the breaks that you need.
By Kathy Ni
University of Tasmania