Thursday, 7 March 2013

Final week of rotation as a medical student?


Firstly, sorry for the late post. I have always tried to post Sundays, this has crept to Mondays and Tuesdays, and now suddenly we are on Wednesday night. its not because I don't care, its just that I am a little busy at the moment, and keep managing to do something else instead! 

It has been a long journey, but the last week was (hopefully) my last week of rotation as a medical student. I have a few weeks of revision ahead of me (hence why I am so busy at the moment), and then my final exams. After these (apart from being very relieved that they are over), I will have a little more hospital time, before (hopefully) starting work as a doctor! Crazy, but all very reliant on me passing these exams. I have always been a 'crammer' before, loving to cram up on information the week before a test, but now there seems to be too much information for this, so I am trying to get rolling earlier, so I don't fail. 

Other than revision, there has been this fiasco with the SJT test. I was placed in my first choice of region with a pretty high score, which was nice as it is a relatively competitive region to get into. I was happy for a day or two, before all the offers were withdrawn, and the tests remarked, before the offers are made again come the 8th (Friday). I am not too worried about my mark, as it was well above the borderline, but if I was on the borderline (either of just getting into my choice, or just missing out) I would be stuck to the news on this at the moment. As it is, I am watching it closely, but more out of an attempt at procrastination. Hopefully I will stay where I was last put, though!

In my last week of medical student rotations, I had some fantastic consultations. I was left morning and afternoon consultation slots most days, meaning I saw about 10-15 people a day on average, a lot less than a real GP, but similar, in that the patients coming in could have had anything wrong with them. I saw some pretty strange situations, such as the middle aged woman who had come in with her children to find out what she could do about her husband's addiction. This wasn't an addiction to gambling, drinking or smoking as you might think, rather an addiction to the Facebook game 'FarmVille', which had taken over his life, causing him to be fired from work. There was also an interesting case of a shrinking lady, who was about 80, but had shrunk down to 4 foot something due to hyperparathyroidism, meaning a hormone which released calcium from her bones was too high, causing her spine to crush down and for her to shrink. Strangely enough, the treatment for this was to put her on an analogue of parathyroid hormone (a drug that does the same as the hormone causing the problem) which was meant to solve the problem. Whether it does this by creating positive feedback, and thus lowering the parathyroid hormone produced, or whether it had some other effect on the bones, making them stronger, I am not sure. I will look it up; I am clearly still a long way away from finals proficiency! 

The highlight of this week, and perhaps the highlight of my medical education to date was a fantastic consultation that I had on Friday, my last day. The patient was a man who hadn't been seen by the GP for many years, but came in with severe depression. He wasn't someone who used doctors much, but had been persuaded to come in by his son. He started the consultation saying he wasn't too sure why he had come in, as he wasn't interested in any of our 'pills or potions'. As I have said before, I have half hour appointments with patients (because I am much less efficient than a real doctor), and this appointment was before my lunch break, so I had even more time. I ended up talking with him about his issues for a good hour and a half, something that a GP wouldn't be able to do at all. Most of the issues were not solvable by me or a doctor at all, issues such as unemployment, problems with the family, and so on. I will not go into any detail because of confidentiality, but I think he ha every right to be depressed. I ran a PHQ-9 questionnaire by him (used to assess severity of depression), and he scored 23/27, putting him as severely depressed. In the end, I explained what we could do to help him, mainly being medication, and talked about the Citizens Advice Bureau, which could help him with more tangible things such as accommodation. Many of his problems were coming from having such low mood and energy that he couldn't face doing anything in life, which means his life got worse, making him more upset. I talked about the benefits of SSRI drugs in this situation, in that they would provide a temporary 'crutch' for his mind (like a plaster cast for a broken bone), picking him back towards normal, meaning he could start sorting out his life, and get on top of these feelings. He was exceptionally grateful for my time and talking to him about it, saying that it had helped a great deal, and was keen on trying the medication as it sounded like the right route to take. This had all gone on without a doctor, so I called in the GP to double check what I thought and to prescribe the medication. The GP was very pleased with how I had done, and happy to prescribe. The patient was very thankful to me, and when I was arranging a follow up appointment in two weeks (as protocol) asked if he could see me, as I had been so helpful. What a reward, having someone want to see you over all of the actual doctors at the surgery. Sadly, as it was my last day, this wasn't possible, but it was so rewarding to have someone want to come back and see me. That must be one of the most rewarding things to have as a general practitioner; to have patients trust you with their health, and want to see you over other medical professionals.

Anyway, that was a fantastic consultation, and while only possible because of my long consultation times and free lunch break, it felt as though I could really offer something to the patient and the GP surgery in all. My very last patient was relatively simple, and the GP didn't even bother coming into see them when I presented them to her in her room. As they didn't need any drugs prescribed (or so I had decided) she just said that that all sounded fine, and I could sort it out. They were simpler than the gentleman in the previous paragraph, but this felt like a big step as well; I was seeing patients, deciding on a diagnosis and treatment, then initiating it all on my own. I am so excited about later this year when I (hopefully) get to do this myself at hospitals, but very scared about it as well. Such responsibility...

Anyway, posts may be less frequent and less wordy for the next few weeks, you don't want to hear about my revision after all! But I will try and keep these experiences in sight as I slog to cram my head full of (seemingly inane) medical conditions such as Buerger's disease, or Ehlers–Danlos syndrome. I really want to be a doctor! 


  1. I think an analog is a somewhat vague term just the given to chemicals structurally (but not necessarily functionally) similar to the chemical its "imitating" pharmacologically, and hence could be either an agonist or an antagonist. Perhaps the parathyroid analog is antagonising the parathyroid receptor on the osteoblasts.

    Really enjoyed the blogs since you began, and have followed them from my last year in second-level education when I was trying to get into medicine to what is now my second year in medicine. They're an uplifting read and from the sounds of it I'm sure you'll make a fantastic doctor. Hope you can keep it up when you're on the other side!

    1. Ugh, messed up that first paragraph - "I think an analog is a somewhat vague term given to chemicals structurally (but not necessarily functionally) similar to the chemical its "imitating" pharmacologically, and hence it could be either an agonist or an antagonist" is what I meant to say!

  2. Seeing a med student who knows what Ehlers Danlos is fills with me excitement. So many years of doctors telling me it's all in my head as no one has heard of my condition kinda makes it exciting when someone knows what it is. :)

  3. Hi Anonymous 1 and 2,

    Thank you for the posts, to Anonymous 1, I think that it is an agonist, and brief high levels seem to stimulate new bone growth, while longer term high levels lead to the release of the calcium from the bone
    No guarantee about this though, and you could well be right - it could still be an antagonist (which would make a lot more sense!)

    I am glad both of you enjoy the blog - I am pleased you have made it to medical school Anonymous 1 - keep it up and look forward to the fully clinical years when it gets a lot more interesting!

    Anonymous 2, it is a shame that all medical people people don't seem to recognise your condition - I am sorry I called it inane - it is just rare! I hope you are coping OK with it though :)

    1. And not all *that* rare either! NIH is now saying between 1 in 5000 and 1 in 2500 have it. That's a big change from the "1 in 15,000" days.