Hospital. The final frontier. These are the voyages of the Starship Studenterprise. Its five-year mission: to explore strange new wards, to seek out new departments and new specialities, to boldly go where no medic has gone before.
Medic’s Log: Planet of the Elderly
Welcome back to this Medicine student blog. Our next stop after A&E Spacestation? The Planet of the Elderly! This is a world that, at first glance, appears sedate and tedious. However, it is year-on-year becoming a more significant and important constellation in the NHS Health Cosmos.
The planet, as its name suggests, provides care for the very oldest of intergalactic visitors. These patients have been into hospital so many times over so many years, their notes are now lengthier than Don Quijote, the entirety of Game of Thrones and the dictionary combined (and read in as enthralling a manner as the latter).
Their drug charts look more like a shopping list (the kind you make when you haven’t shopped for a month and have spent the last few days living off “improv-sandwiches”) than a prescription. In essence, these patients each carry a knot of tangled, interweaving health problems, which means providing treatment for them must be painstakingly considered to avoid relighting an old fire whilst dousing another.
The environment of the Planet of the Elderly is fairly stable throughout the day. The most notable meteorological aspect being the length of time each day in which the heavenly body’s surface is ravaged by ward rounds.
For the Studenterprise crew, these ward rounds represent the very definition of tedium. There are exceptions to the rule, but for the most part, crew members will find that standing with a cluster of natives as they look at a patient’s observation charts is not the most stimulating activity – especially once you have stood through the ritual for the thirtieth time today.
In addition, crew members may observe occasional moments of drama. For instance, cries of rebellion from visitors resisting care are not uncommon, whilst falls, serious deteriorations and “accidents” (you know exactly what I mean) do occur every now and then, just to keep the natives on their toes.
As mentioned above, ward rounds are not engaging for crew members. As a result, these rounds are of no real educational benefit (pretty difficult to learn anything when your mind is a world away). If on-planet during a ward round, crew members have several options:
Become active in the ward round – asking questions, writing in the notes and examining patients are all good crew training, and with not one but several natives supervising, you are likely to get good feedback! Kind of depends on the natives though – they also find these rounds very tedious, and may quickly lose the motivation to ensure the crew are well-stimulated.
Take shelter, doing other jobs – asking if there are other things that crew members can do away from the round is a smart move, as at this point there is always a great list of jobs to do – many of which crew will have to do for training. This is the perfect opportunity to rattle off some cannulas and get those practical skills mastered.
Crew must also be aware of the added difficulty of interacting with visitors – many of them have problems with hearing, so be ready to call upon your best “english person-abroad” impression in order to communicate. Big hand gestures and semi-shouting are encouraged.