Shadowing surgeons racing against the clock to save a kidney was one of the most exciting experiences of my life. With only twenty-five minutes to resect an extensive tumour before the entire kidney was lost, I was moved by the surgeons’ determination and synergy. However, the limitations of medicine were demonstrated when I was told the patient had an additional unresectable tumour. This experience illustrated the responsibility entrusted to medical professionals; not always to save a life but to treat patients with a biopsychosocial approach. Reflecting on this, I knew I wanted to learn more about medicine. However, it was after observing the communication skills and empathy of a physician allaying a pre-operative patient’s fears that my decision to become a doctor was confirmed.
In my local hospice I was inspired by a doctor comforting an anxious, elderly patient; adapting his terminology to ensure effective communication. In my eight months there I developed the clarity of my conversation with patients, in a way that benefitted their needs. I used this skill at a GP surgery with an elderly patient who was distressed about waiting times. Using a calm demeanour, I deescalated the situation and sought help from a receptionist, who had previously established a rapport with the patient. My leadership skills were enhanced through the realisation that being a good leader involves asking for guidance. My aim is to further these skills in my future medical career.
Exposure to multiple GP surgeries highlighted how a large elderly population correlates with the need for more home visits; thereby illustrating the effect of demographic transition in healthcare. The importance of teamwork was demonstrated in the multidisciplinary team meetings I have observed on various placements. The healthcare professionals deliberated in order to ensure the best quality of life for the patient.
One of my responsibilities as head of boarding is to comfort younger students who are missing home and this helped me realise that collaboration within the boarding house helps to improve their well-being. Understanding and empathy comes from staff and students alike and my teamwork has improved. Responsibility and advocating for patients in a team is something I look forward to in my future career.
At the hospice it was moving to witness the composure of a doctor who was delivering news of a patient’s rapid deterioration. This exemplified how emotionally demanding medicine is. However, when facing academic challenges I have developed a positive work-life balance. Running and playing the violin provide stress outlets and I look forward to representing my university’s orchestra. There are many new challenges as a medical student and doctor, however, I know that I have the emotional maturity to thrive in a high-pressure environment.
Research is a vital element of medicine as it advances patient care. At Nuffield Health an umbrella sticker on a patient’s door is the universal symbol for dementia. This inspired me as it is an innovative way to maintain confidentiality whilst adapting to patients’ needs and I wrote about this in an article I published in Mentor Magazine. After reading ‘Somebody I Used To Know’ by Wendy Mitchell, which details her experience with dementia, I researched dementia treatment. This topic was further explored within my EPQ where I investigated socially assistive robots that improve behavioural and psychological dementia symptoms, through social exchange. This experience helped me to appreciate the importance of research in evidence-based medicine. I look forward to improving my research skills at medical school.
The empathy and compassion I have seen in healthcare professionals has helped me confirm my commitment to holistic, patient-centred care. I appreciate the academic, emotional and practical challenges of a career in medicine and feel well prepared to meet these as I enter medical school next year.
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