This is an article by Sara Zonza, an IB student studying Biomed at EF Academy Oxford.
To make a good application for medicine both in the UK or the US, it’s important to have had some work experience in a hospital or care home. This gives you the chance to understand all the implications of being a doctor and the most important thing if studying medicine is the right choice for you.
At the end of my IB studies, I had the opportunity to spend a week shadowing several doctors in Southampton General Hospital along with another student. It was an amazing experience. Each day was completely different from the previous one, allowing us to extend our medical knowledge.
We saw a different range of departments that helped us better understand how a hospital works. During this time we saw different patients and medical professionals who showed us the importance of the relationship between doctors and patients. It also showed us the teamwork experienced among consultants and junior doctors.
For two days, we were in the Intensive Care Unit, one of the most challenging departments in a hospital. They have to deal with death so closely: the days started with a meeting where each junior doctor presented a medical case to keep everyone informed of the conditions of the patients. Then the junior doctors would be assigned patients and had to go check conditions.
The doctors would then meet together, after making an analysis. They would discuss the patient’s condition with a more senior doctor and consultant to find the best treatment for the patients.
Another day we were in the Acute Medical Unit shadowing a respiratory physician who managed to make their patients feel comfortable and calm. They did so with ease in every situation, even in the worst cases.
I think that the most interesting day of the week was when we entered the theatre to see a Whipple procedure (or pancreaticoduodenectomy) where part of the pancreas, stomach, and duodenum were removed from a patient who suffers from cancer.
I was initially scared as I didn’t know exactly what to expect – if there would be too much blood or if the patient would have some complications but fortunately everything was fine. The experience in the theatre helped me to apply my scientific knowledge acquired in the previous years. In biology, we spoke about the role of the liver or the several enzymes that the pancreas produced, but seeing the pancreas or the liver inside a body was completely different and in that moment I really felt that my place was there.
Another interesting day was when we looked at a cutting-edge treatment for liver cancer, called selective internal radiation therapy. I felt so lucky as only ten NHS trusts in England use this procedure to improve survival around five months for patients. This treatment helps me understand that human life is so valuable and that doctors should do everything they can to improve it and support patients in every possible way, helping to extend their lives. Even if it’s only five months more.
Time is important and we should spend every minute of our lives enjoying it. I really recommend an experience like this to students who want to apply to medicine. They should gain as much work experience as they can and learn from it. It’s only in this way that you can become a wonderful doctor.
Seeing these experiences showed us that the role of a doctor is to find the best treatment for patients, try to establish a relationship with them, and help them feel protected and safe.