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In2Med

A guide to surviving life on the wards

As a medical student, being on the wards can be a really daunting experience. You might find yourself at the back of the ward round struggling to hear or see anything. This guide goes through how to get the most out of being on the wards as a medical student. 

doctor, tomograph, i am a student

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Why am I writing this blog?

Clinical placements are a huge part of every medical school curriculum, and as you progress further through medical school you will find yourself spending more and more time based on placement. It can often be a very daunting prospect when you first start out – it definitely was for me! I have written this blog in the hope that it can prepare you in the best way possible and give you a taste of what placements are really like.

My 5 key tips

1. Be Confident:

One of the most important pieces of advice I can give you is that confidence is key with clinical placements. The majority of students will be extremely nervous on their first few days or weeks of placements. Remember that this is completely normal! 

You will be learning in a completely new environment and it can take time to get used to it. You will soon start to adapt your learning style to the clinical environment and become much more comfortable with speaking to people on the wards and asking for help. 

There will be times where you may feel this is difficult, especially because the wards can get very busy and it can feel like you’re in the way. However, remembering that everyone there is happy to help you can really give you that confidence to put yourself forward and push yourself. The worst that can happen is that whoever you’re asking will be too busy to help you – so just ask someone else!

2. Get Involved:

It can sometimes be easy to blend into the background on placement, but taking the initiative to try and get the most of your time on the wards will change your whole experience. Asking to get involved opens up so many opportunities for you – you can watch that rare procedure that you would have otherwise missed out on, or speak to that patient with a fascinating history you’ll remember for years to come. 

Placement is a safe place to try out new skills, and it’s the time to make mistakes so you can improve yourself. You will have plenty of support from your peers as well as doctors and nurses, so don’t be afraid to get stuck in!

3. Do your preparation:

Before you start your placements, you should (hopefully!) be given a timetable with all the activities you’ll be getting involved with. This can be useful to form a basis of what to go over beforehand, and it can really help if you’re feeling a little worried about what might come up. If you’re timetabled a urology theatre session for example, having a quick revise of the relevant anatomy as well as common urological conditions can put you in a very strong position for when you attend the surgery. 

It gives you much less to worry about and much more to look forward to, and means you can make the most of your experience. Also, being able to show off and impress your surgeon with some anatomical knowledge does wonders for your confidence!

4. Consolidate your knowledge:

Consolidating your knowledge every day or two is a short and easy task that can really enhance your learning on placement. Make some rough notes on whatever you see on placement, and when you get home, write these up and have a read around the information that you learnt. It can sometimes feel like you aren’t learning much from your placements, but this is a really good way to help combat that feeling. You can identify gaps in your knowledge and make a real difference to your overall productivity.

5. Be resilient:

Clinical placement is an amazing learning experience, filled with unique and exciting opportunities. No matter how scary it can sometimes feel, you will look back fondly on your clinical years during medical school and be grateful for how much knowledge you gained in that time. I hope this blog has given you an insight into what life on the wards is like, and I hope you feel more prepared to embark on the adventure that is clinical placement.

Summary

Clinical placement is an amazing learning experience, filled with unique and exciting opportunities. No matter how scary it can sometimes feel, you will look back fondly on your clinical years during medical school and be grateful for how much knowledge you gained in that time. I hope this blog has given you an insight into what life on the wards is like, and I hope you feel more prepared to embark on the adventure that is clinical placement.

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