Starting my first year on placement during a global pandemic was truly nothing I could have predicted when I first stepped into the University of Manchester 3 years ago. As a bright-eyed bushy tailed first year, I was filled with excitement and apprehension at the thought of going to hospital every day and seeing real patients.
It’s safe to say that in the current climate I’m still feeling that mix of excitement and apprehension.
Having done 6 weeks of placement I’m here to give you my first impressions and reflections on my new normal!
Farewell Uni Life!
In all of the chaos of March 2020 I didn’t realize how many “last times” I would have! My last time in a campus lecture theatre, my last time getting stuck in the Stopford barriers at 8:55am and even my last time catching the ever-elusive bus 147. Everything I could need is at hospital – from a library to all my academic and pastoral support. My usual 10-minute walk to campus has turned into a 60-minute bus ride and I’ve traded my trusty University of Manchester hoodie for grey oversized scrubs.
All of my societies are now online due to COVID restrictions, so I’ve not visited campus once this year and I don’t anticipate having to. It’s a strange feeling being a university student but not really being in university at all, pandemic aside!
I made the mistake of assuming that the step up to placement years would be purely academic however these past 6 weeks have proved to be mentally and physically taxing as well.
In terms of academics, learning on placement is self-motivated. You’re in charge of creating the best learning opportunities for yourself and I found it very daunting having to go up to busy healthcare professionals and ask to shadow them on the wards. It’s all about making the most out of every teaching opportunity you can get. It’s a change from first and second year where every aspect of my day was timetabled and I always knew what each session would bring.
I’m also so incredibly exhausted.
Placement is extremely tiring – during my first few visits to hospital I would crash as soon as I got home. Any productive plans I had made for that evening were instantly wrecked. After 6 months at home it’s been difficult to get back into the working mindset. It’s not been an easy transition but it’s one I’ve been preparing myself to make and even after a long day I can’t wait to get up and do it all over again.
Not only are we seeing the way we learn adapt to the times but I’m also getting to see firsthand the way medicine adapts with the times. Virtual and telephone clinics are becoming the new normal, as well as virtual teaching.
Everyone is having to learn how to adjust and adapt and there have definitely been some frustrating moments. Not having a schedule until the day before my placement starts or having limited ward access due to social distancing. I won’t ever be able to compare my placement year to those before me. But it’s also an incredibly exciting time to be a medical student! No one can deny that learning how to be a doctor during a pandemic is a truly unique teaching experience.