I read an article recently that 90% of surgical trainees have experienced bullying of one form or other in their practice. That’s 90%. That’s shocking. Worryingly it is highly likely that this statistic is not purely isolated to surgery. This is evidence of a major problem that needs to be addressed. We don’t accept bullying in schools and in the workplace policies are in place to stop bullying and harassment– so why have 90% of trainees experienced bullying? I can relate to this from personal experience, as I am sure most of us can. Prior to intercalating I had always had the typical med student ambition of joining the big league and taking on surgery. I had a keen interest in anatomy, I had decided to intercalate in anatomy, I did an SSC on surgical robotics, presented at an undergraduate surgical conference and had a small exposure to surgery in my first couple of years that gave me enough drive to take on a competitive career path. I took it upon myself to try and arrange a brief summer attachment where I would learn as a clinical medical student what it is like to scrub in and be in theatre. At the beginning I was so excited. At the end every time someone mentioned surgery I felt sick. It became apparent very quickly that I was an inconvenience. I think medical students all get this feeling – ‘being in the way’ - but this was different. This was being made to feel deliberately uncomfortable. I asked if I could have some guidance on scrubbing in and this was met with a complete huff and annoyance because I didn’t know how to do it properly (thank goodness for a lovely team of theatre nurses!). I even got assigned a pet name for the week – the ‘limpet’ (notable for their clinging on to rocks) that was frequently used as a humiliation tactic in front of colleagues. By the end of the week I dreaded walking into the hospital and felt physically sick every morning. Now some people might say ‘man up’ and get on with it. Fair enough, but I’m a fairly resilient character and it takes a lot to make me feel like I did that week. This experience completely eradicated any ambition I had at the time to go into surgery. Since then I’ve focused elsewhere and generally dreaded surgical rotations until very recently where I managed to meet a wonderful orthopaedic team who were incredibly encouraging. Bullying can be subjective. Just because a consultant asks you a difficult question doesn’t mean they’re bullying you. By and large clinicians want to stretch you and trigger buttons that make you go and look things up. If it drives you to work and develops you as a professional then it’s not bullying, but if it makes you feel rubbish, sick or less about yourself then you should perhaps think twice about the way you’re being treated. Of course bullying doesn’t stop at professionals. Psychological bullying is rife in medical schools. We’ve all been ‘psyched out’ by our peers – how much do you know? How did you know that when I didn’t? Intimidating behaviour can be just as aggressive. Americans dub these people ‘Gunners’ although we’ve been rather nice and adopted the word ‘keen’ instead. Luckily most medical schools have a port of call for this sort of behaviour. But a word of advice – don’t let anyone shrug it off. If it’s a problem, if it’s affecting you – tell someone. Bullying individuals that are trying to learn and develop as professionals is entirely unacceptable. If you would like to share similar experiences, drop them in the comments box below.
about 5 years ago
So, I think its about time I posted another blog post! A few weeks ago I received the results from my most recent scan. I was both nervous and excited to find out my results, after months of tests and being misdiagnosed several times I just wanted to know what was wrong with me. However, as I read through the letter from my consultant I realised that my journey was just beginning. I was diagnosed with a rare stomach condition. Gastroparesis. A chronic illness. There is no known cure, just various treatments with limited success. I didn’t really know how to react to this news. Shouldn’t I be happy that I finally knew what was wrong? I had convinced myself for months that as soon as the doctors found out what was wrong, they could fix it and I’d be better in no time, but this wasn’t to be. I couldn’t understand how this could happen. Slowly the reality began to sink in, I’ll probably be fighting this battle for the rest of my life. I think the mental aspect of chronic conditions is so commonly overlooked. I’ve sat through endless lectures about the pathophysiology of illnesses but I’ve never once stopped to think what it must be like to actually have it. The way it can limit your life, from not being able to go for a drink with friends because you’re in too much pain to the countless hospital appointments that your life seems to revolve around. The thing that hit me the most is the amount of medications I have to take on a daily basis just to make my symptoms bearable. I no longer have full control of my life and that's the worst part. This experience has given me an invaluable insight into how patients with chronic illness feel. It affects almost every aspect of your life and you can never escape. It scares me to think of the future, I never know when I’m going to get my next flare up or how long its going to last. I just have to take one day at a time and hope that when I wake up tomorrow I won’t be too nauseous. After spending a few weeks feeling down about it all, I’ve realised that I just have to enjoy life when I can and be grateful that I can still live a normal-ish life. It doesn’t matter how much I complain, it's not going to go away, and I think I’ve finally accepted that fact. If anything, this experience has made me more determined to achieve my dream of becoming a doctor. I’ve been a lot more motivated to work harder so that one day I can help others like me through some of their toughest times, hopefully bringing them some comfort and relief.
over 5 years ago
Written by Dr John L Gibbs, Consultant Paediatric Cardiologist, Yorkshire Heart Centre, Leeds General Infirmary. This presentation covers the many types of bradyarthymias, their ECG findings, investigation of them and finally some of the common treatment methods.
almost 11 years ago
I have recently spent a few days following around registrars on military ward rounds. It has been a fantastic experience for learning about trauma care and rehab, but more importantly it has shown me just how vital team spirit is to modern health care! The military ward round is done once a week. It starts with a huge MDT of almost 40 people, including nurses, physios, registrars and consultants from all of the specialities involved in trauma and rehab. The main trauma ward round team then go to speak to all of the patients in the hospital. The team normally consists of at least one T+O consultant, one plastics, two physios, two nurses, 3 registrars and a few others. This ward round team is huge, unweildly and probably very costly, but those military patients receive a phenomenal level of care that is very quick and efficient. Having then compared this level of care with what I have experience on my 4th year speciality medicine placement, I now feel the NHS has a lot to learn about team work. I am sure that everyone working in healthcare can relate to situations where patients have been admitted under the care of one team, who don’t really know what to do with the patient but struggle on bravely until they are really lost and then look around to see who they can beg for help. The patient then gets ping-ponged around for a few days while management plans are made separately. All of the junior doctors are stressed because they keep having to contact multiple teams to ask what should be done next. The patient is left feeling that their care wasn’t handled very well and is probably less than happy with the delay to their definite treatment. The patient, thankfully, normally ends up getting the correct treatment eventually, but there is often a massive prolongation of their stay in hospital. These prolonged stays are not good for the patient due to increasing risks of complications, side effects, hospital acquired infections etc. They are not good for the health care staff, who get stressed that their patients aren’t receiving the optimum care. The delays are very bad for the NHS managers, who might miss targerts, lose funding and have to juggle beds even more than normal. Finally, it is not good for the NHS as a hole, which has to stump up the very expensive fees these delays cause (approximately £500 a night). There is a simple solution to this which would save a huge amount of time, energy and money. TEAM WORK! Every upper-GI ward round should be done with the consultant surgeon team and a gastroenterologist (even a trainee would probably do) and vice versa, every Gastroenterology ward round should have a surgeon attached. Every orthopaedic ward round should be done with an elderly care physician, physio/rehab specialist and a social worker. Every diabetic foot clinic should have a diabetologist, podiatrist, vascular surgeon and/or orthopaedic surgeon (even trainees). Etc. etc. etc. A more multi-disciplinary team approach will make patient care quicker, more appropriate and less stressful for everyone involved. It would benefit the patients, the staff and the NHS. To begin with it might not seem like an easy situation to arrange. Everyone is over worked, no one has free time, no one has much of a spare budget and everyone has an ego. But... Team work will be essential to improving the NHS. Many MDTs already exist as meetings. MDTs already exist as ED trauma teams, ED resus teams and Military trauma teams. There is no reason why lessons can’t be learnt from these examples and applied to every other field of medicine. I know that as medical students (and probably every other health care student) the theory of how MDTs should work is rammed down our throats time after time, but I personally still think the NHS has a long way to go to live up to the whole team work ethos and that we as the younger, idealist generation of future healthcare professionals should make this one of our key aims for our future careers. When we finally become senior health care professionals we should try our best to make all clinical encounters an MDT approach.
almost 6 years ago
I started medical school in 2007 wanting to 'making people better'. I stopped medical school in 2010 facing the reality of not being able to get better myself, being ill and later to be diagnosed with several long term health conditions. This post is about my transition from being a medical student, to the other side - being a patient. There are many things I wish I knew about long-term health conditions and patients when I was a medical student. I hope that through this post, current medical students can become aware of some of theses things and put them into practice as doctors themselves. I went to medical school because I wanted to help people and make them better. I admired doctors up on their pedestals for their knowledge and skills and expertise to 'fix things'. The hardest thing for me was accepting that doctors can't always make people better - they couldn't make me better. Holding doctors so highly meant it was very difficult for me to accept their limitations when it came to incurable long-term conditions and then to accept that as a patient I had capacity myself to help my conditions and situation. Having studied medicine at a very academic university, I had a very strict perception of knowledge. Knowledge was hard and fast medical facts that were taught in a formal setting. I worked all day and night learning the anatomical names for all the muscles in the eye, the cranial nerves and citric acid cycle, not to mention the pharmacology in second year. Being immersed in that academic scientific environment, I correlated expertise with PhDs and papers. It was a real challenge to realise that knowledge doesn't always have to be acquired through a formal educational but that it can be acquired through experience. Importantly, knowledge acquired through experience is equally valid! This means the knowledge my clinicians have developed through studying and working is as valid as my knowledge of my conditions, symptoms and triggers, developed through experiencing it day in day out. I used to feel cross about 'expert patients' - I have spent all these hours in a library learning the biochemistry and pharmacology and 'Joe Bloggs' walks in and knows it all! That wasn't the right attitude, and wasn't fair on patients. As an expert patient myself now, I have come to understood that we are experts through different means, and in different fields. My clinicians remain experts in the biological aspects on disease, but that's not the full picture. I am an expert in the psychological and social impact of my conditions. All aspects need to be taken into account if I am going to have holistic integrated care - the biopsychosocial model in practice - and that's where shared-decision making comes in. The other concept which is has been shattered since making the transition from medical student to patient is that of routine. In my first rotation, orthopaedics and rheumatology, I lost track within the first week of how many outpatient appointments I sat in on. I didn't really think anything of them - they are just another 15 minute slot of time filled with learning in a very busy day. As a patient, my perspective couldn't be more different. I have one appointment with my consultant a year, and spend weeks planning and preparing, then a month recovering emotionally. Earlier this year I wrote a whole post just about this - The Anatomy of an Appointment. Appointments are routine for you - they are not for us! The concept of routine applies to symptoms too. After my first relapse, I had an emergency appointment with my consultant, and presented with very blurred vision and almost total loss of movement in my hands. That very fact I had requested an urgent appointment suggest how worried I was. My consultants response in the appointment was "there is nothing alarming about your symptoms". I fully appreciate that my symptoms may not have meant I was going to drop dead there and then, and that in comparison to his patients in ICU, I was not as serious. But loosing vision and all use of ones hands at the age of 23 (or any age for that matter) is alarming in my books! I guess he was trying to reassure me, but it didn't come across like that! I have a Chiari malformation (in addition to Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome and Elhers-Danlos Syndrome) and have been referred to a neurosurgeon to discuss the possibility of neurosurgery. It is stating the obvious to say that for a neurosurgeon, brain surgery is routine - it's their job! For me, the prospect of even being referred to a neurosurgeon was terrifying, before I even got to the stage of discussing the operation. It is not a routine experience at all! At the moment, surgery is not needed (phew!) but the initial experience of this contact with neurosurgeons illustrates the concept of routines and how much our perspectives differ. As someone with three quite rare and complex conditions, I am invariable met in A&E with comments like "you are so interesting!". I remember sitting in the hospital cafeteria at lunch as a student and literally feasting on the 'fascinating' cases we had seen on upstairs on the wards that morning. "oh you must go and see that really interesting patient with X, Y and Z!" I am so thankful that you all find medicine so interesting - you need that passion and fascination to help you with the ongoing learning and drive to be a doctor. I found it fascinating too! But I no longer find neurology that interesting - it is too close to home. Nothing is "interesting" if you live with it day in day out. No matter what funky things my autonomic nervous may be doing, there is nothing interesting or fascinating about temporary paralysis, headaches and the day to day grind of my symptoms. This post was inspired by NHS Change Day (13th March 2013) - as a patient, I wanted to share these few things with medical students, what I wish I knew when I was where you are now, to help the next generation of doctors become the very best doctors they can. I wish you all the very best for the rest of your studies, and thank you very much for reading! Anya de Iongh www.thepatientpatient2011.blogspot.co.uk @anyadei
Anya de Iongh
over 6 years ago
In a recent article in the BMJ the author wonders about the reasons beyond the rising trend diagnosing Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). The article attempts to infer reasons for this. One possible reason was that the diagnostic criteria especially DSM may seem for some to be more inclusive than ICD-10. The speculation may explain the rise of the diagnosis where DSM is used officially or have an influence. In a rather constructive way, an alternative to rushing to diagnosis is offered and discussed in some details. The tentative deduction that the Diagnostic Statistical Manual (DSM) may be one of the causes of rising diagnosis, due to raising the cut-off of age, and widening the inclusion criteria, as opposed to International Classification of Diseases, 10th revision (ICD-10), captured my attention. On reading the ICD-10 diagnostic criteria for research (DCR) and DSM-5 diagnostic criteria, I found them quite similar in most aspects, even the phraseology that starts with 'Often' in many diagnostic criteria, they seem to differ a bit in age. In a way both classification, are attempting to describe the disorder, however, it sounds as if someone is trying to explain a person's behaviour to you, however, this is not a substitute to direct clinical learning, and observing the behaviour, as if the missing sentence is 'when you see the person, it will be clearer'. El-Islam agrees with the notion that DSM-5 seems to be a bit more inclusive than ICD-10. A colleague of mine who is a child psychiatrist and she is doing her MSc. thesis in ADHD told me, that DSM-5 seems to be a substantial improvement as compared to its predecessor. The criteria - to her - though apparently are more inclusive, they are more descriptive with many examples, and she infers that this will payback in the reliability of the diagnosis. She hopes gene research can yield in biological tests for implicated genes and neurotransmitters in ADHD e.g. DRD4, DAT, gene 5,6,11 etc. One child psychiatrist, regretted the fact that misdiagnosis and under-diagnoses, deprive the patient from one of the most effective treatments in psychiatry. It is hoped the nearest forthcoming diagnostic classification (ICD-11), will address the issue of the diagnosis from a different perspective, or else converge with DSM-5 to provide coherence and a generalised newer standard of practice. The grading of ADHD into mild, moderate, and severe seem to blur the border between disorder and non-disorder, however, this quasi-dimensional approach seems realistic, it does not translate yet directly in differences in treatment approaches as with the case of mild, moderate, severe, and severe depression with psychotic symptoms, or intellectual disability. The author states that one counter argument could be that child psychiatrists are better at diagnosing the disorder. I wonder if this is a reflection of a rising trend of a disorder. If ADHD is compared to catatonia, it is generally agreed that catatonia is less diagnosed now, may be the epidemiology of ADHD is not artefact, and that we may need to look beyond the diagnosis to learn for example from environmental factors. Another issue is that there seems to be significant epidemiological differences in the rates of diagnosis across cultures. This may give rise to whether ADHD can be classified as a culture-bound syndrome, or whether it is influenced by culture like anorexia nervosa, or it may be just because of the raising awareness to such disorders. Historically, it is difficult to attempt to pinpoint what would be the closest predecessor to ADHD. For schizophrenia and mania, older terms may have included insanity, for depression it was probably melancholia, there are other terms that still reside in contemporary culture e.g. hypochondriasis, hysteria, paranoia etc. Though, it would be too simplistic to believe that what is meant by these terms was exactly what ancient cultures meant by them, but, they are not too far. ADHD seems to lack such historical underpinning. Crichton described a disorder he refers to as 'mental restlessness'. Still who is most often credited with the first description of ADHD, in his 1902 address to the Royal College of Physicians. Still describes a number of patients with problems in self-regulation or, as he then termed it, 'moral control' (De Zeeuw et al, 2011). The costs and the risks related to over-diagnosis, ring a warning bell, to enhance scrutiny in the diagnosis, due to subsequent stigma, costs, and lowered societal expectations. They all seem to stem from the consequences of the methodology of diagnosis. The article touches in an important part in the psychiatric diagnosis, and classifications, which is the subjective nature of disorders. The enormous effort done in DSM-5 & ICD-10 reflect the best available evidence, but in order to eliminate the subjective nature of illness, a biological test seems to be the only definitive answer, to ADHD in particular and psychiatry in general. Given that ADHD is an illness and that it is a homogeneous thing; developments in gene studies would seem to hold the key to understanding our current status of diagnosis. The suggested approach for using psychosocial interventions and then administering treatment after making sure that it is a must, seems quite reasonable. El-Islam, agrees that in ADHD caution prior to giving treatment is a recommended course of action. Another consultant child psychiatrist mentioned that one hour might not be enough to reach a comfortable diagnosis of ADHD. It may take up to 90 minutes, to become confident in a clinical diagnosis, in addition to commonly used rating scales. Though on the other hand, families and carers may hypothetically raise the issue of time urgency due to scholastic pressure. In a discussion with Dr Hend Badawy, a colleague child psychiatrist; she stated the following with regards to her own experience, and her opinion about the article. The following is written with her consent. 'ADHD is a clinically based diagnosis that has three core symptoms, inattention, hyperactivity and impulsivity in - at least - two settings. The risk of over-diagnosis in ADHD is one of the potentially problematic, however, the risk of over-diagnosis is not confined to ADHD, it can be present in other psychiatric diagnoses, as they rely on subjective experience of the patient and doctor's interviewing skills. In ADHD in particular the risk of under-diagnosis is even more problematic. An undiagnosed child who has ADHD may suffer various complications as moral stigma of 'lack of conduct' due to impuslivity and hyperactivity, poor scholastic achievement, potential alienation, ostracization and even exclusion by peer due to perceived 'difference', consequent feelings of low self esteem and potential revengeful attitude on the side of the child. An end result, would be development of substance use disorders, or involvement in dissocial behaviours. The answer to the problem of over-diagnosis/under-diagnosis can be helped by an initial step of raising public awareness of people about ADHD, including campaigns to families, carers, teachers and general practitioners. These campaigns would help people identify children with possible ADHD. The only risk is that child psychiatrists may be met with children who their parents believe they might have the disorder while they do not. In a way, raising awareness can serve as a sensitive laboratory investigation. The next step is that the child psychiatrist should scrutinise children carefully. The risk of over-diagnosis can be limited via routine using of checklists, to make sure that the practice is standardised and that every child was diagnosed properly according to the diagnostic criteria. The use of proper scales as Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ) in its two forms (for parents SDQ-P and for teachers SDQ-T) which enables the assessor to learn about the behaviour of the child in two different settings. Conner's scale can help give better understanding of the magnitude of the problem. Though some people may voice criticism as they are mainly filled out by parents and teachers, they are the best tools available at hands. Training on diagnosis, regular auditing and restricting doctors to a standard practice of ensuring that the child and carer have been interviewed thoroughly can help minimise the risk of over-diagnosis. The issue does not stop by diagnosis, follow-up can give a clue whether the child is improving on the management plan or not. The effects and side effects of treatments as methylphenidate should be monitored regularly, including regular measurement height and weight, paying attention to nausea, poor appetite, and even the rare side effects which are usually missed. More restrictions and supervision on the medication may have an indirect effect on enhancing the diagnostic assessment. To summarise, the public advocacy does not increase the risk of over-diagnosis, as asking about suicidal ideas does not increase its risk. The awareness may help people learn more and empower them and will lead to more acceptance of the diagnosed child in the community. Even the potential risk of having more case loads for doctors to assess for ADHD may help give more exposure of cases, and reaching more meaningful epidemiological finding. From my experience, it is quite unlikely to have marked over-representation of children who the families suspect ADHD without sufficient evidence. ADHD remains a clinical diagnosis, and it is unlikely that it will be replaced by a biological marker or an imaging test in the near future. After all, even if there will be objective diagnostic tests, without clinical diagnostic interviewing their value will be doubtful. It is ironic that the two most effective treatments in psychiatry methylphenidate and Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT) are the two most controversial treatments. May be because both were used prior to having a full understanding of their mechanism of action, may be because, on the outset both seem unusual, electricity through the head, and a stimulant for hyperactive children. Authored by E. Sidhom, H. Badawy DISCLAIMER The original post is on The BMJ doc2doc website at http://doc2doc.bmj.com/blogs/clinicalblog/#plckblogpage=BlogPost&plckpostid=Blog%3A15d27772-5908-4452-9411-8eef67833d66Post%3Acb6e5828-8280-4989-9128-d41789ed76ee BMJ Article: (http://www.bmj.com/content/347/bmj.f6172). Bibliography Badawy, H., personal communication, 2013 El-Islam, M.F., personal communication, 2013 Thomas R, Mitchell GK, B.L., Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder: are we helping or harming?, British Medical Journal, 2013, Vol. 5(347) De Zeeuw P., Mandl R.C.W., Hulshoff-Pol H.E., et al., Decreased frontostriatal microstructural organization in ADHD. Human Brain Mapping. DOI: 10.1002/hbm.21335, 2011) Diagnostic Statistical Manual 5, American Psychiatric Association, 2013 Diagnostic Statistical Manual-IV, American Psychiatric Association, 1994 International Classification of Diseases, World Health Organization, 1992
Dr Emad Sidhom
over 5 years ago
Dr Danielle Reddi is a Pain Research Fellow and Speciality Registrar in Anaesthesia at University College London Hospital, London, NW1 2BU, Dr Natasha Curran is Consultant in Pain and Anaesthesia, UCLH and Dr Robert Stephens is Consultant in Anaesthesia, UCLH.
almost 4 years ago
SCRUBS Surgical Society (University of Nottingham) Presents: Prof Hope Neuroanatomy Series Podcast 2 - Brain Stem and Cranial Nerves This lecture covers the anatomy of the brain stem and cranial nerves, with key focus on clinical relevance. Prof Hope is a talented, and very entertaining consultant neurosurgeon based at QMC, Nottingham. He personally designed this lecture series for Nottingham Medical Students on behalf of SCRUBS to be packed full of important clinical neuroanatomy and surgery. This lecture is perfect for any final year medical students, or those studying for their pre-clinical neuroanatomy exams.
over 5 years ago
Worst experience ever? - this is pretty difficult as I've worked in some of the poorest countries in the world and seen some things that should never happen like children dying of dehydration and malaria. But this recent experience was definitely the worst. It was midnight and I was trying to get my 16 month old to sleep having woken up after vomiting in his cot. Despite paracetamol, ibuprofen, stripping to nappy, damp sponging and having the window open he went rigid and started fitting. It only lasted a minute or two yet felt like an eternity as he was unable to breathe and became progressively blue as my mind raced ahead to brain damage or some other horrible sequalae. The fitting stopped and my mind turned to whether I was going to have to start CPR. I lay him on the floor and put my ear to his chest and was glad to hear a strong heartbeat but he was floppy with a compromised airway so I quickly got him in the recovery position. The ambulance arrived in 8 minutes and after some oxygen and some observations he was strapped in and ready to go. He had been unconscious for about 15 minutes but was starting to come round, much to my relief. The ambulance crew were great and their quick response made all the difference but then they took nearly half an hour to get to A&E in the middle of the night because they took the most awkward route imaginable. I don't know if it was a deliberate delaying tactic or just a lack of local knowledge but even without a blue light I could have done it in half the time! Why do ambulances not have GPS - ideally with local traffic info built in? We arrived in A&E and were ushered to a miserable receptionist who took our details and told us to have a seat. I noticed above her head that the wait time was 3.5 hours, though we did see a junior nurse who took his observations again. Not long after the screen changed to a 5 hour wait and a bit later to a 6 hour wait! I am glad to say that by about 3 hours my little man was back to his usual self (as evidenced by his attempts at destroying the department) and so after getting the nurse to repeat his obs (all normal) we decided to take him home, knowing we had a few more hours to wait for the doctor, and that the doctor was now unlikely to do anything as he was now well. I tell the story in such detail in part for catharsis, in part to share my brief insight into being on the other side of the consultation, but also because it illustrated a number of system failures. It was a horrible experience but made a lot worse by those system failures. And I couldn't help but feel even more sorry for those around me who didn't have the medical experience that I had to contextualise it all. Sickness, in ourselves or our loved ones, is bad enough without the system making it worse. I had 3 hours of walking around the department with my son in my arms which gave me plenty of time to observe what was going on around me and consider whether it could be improved. I did of course not have access to all areas and so couldn't see what was happening behind the scenes so things may have been busier than I was aware of. Also it was only one evening so not necessarily representative. There were about 15 children in the department and for the 3 hours we were there only a handful of new patients that arrived so no obvious reason for the increasing delay. As I walked around it was clear to me that at least half of the children didn't need to be there. Some were fast asleep on the benches, arguably suggesting they didn't need emergency treatment. One lad had a minor head injury that just needed a clean and some advice. Whilst I didn't ask anyone what was wrong with people talk and so you hear what some of the problems were. Some were definately far more appropriate for general practice. So how could things have been improved and could technology have helped as well? One thing that struck me is that the 'triage' nurse would have been much better as a senior doctor. Not necessarily a consultant but certainly someone with the experience to make decisions. Had this been the case I think a good number could have been sent home very quickly, maybe with some basic treatment or maybe just with advice. Even if it was more complex it may have been that an urgent outpatient in a few days time would have been a much more satisfactory way of dealing with the problem. Even in our case where immediate discharge wouldn't have been appropriate a senior doctor could have made a quick assessment and said "let's observe him for a couple of hours and then repeat is obs - if he is well, the obs are normal and you are happy then you can go home". This would have made the world of difference to us. So where does the technology come in? I've already mentioned Sat Nav for the ambulance but there are a number of other points where technology could have played a part in improving patient experience. Starting with the ambulance if they had access to real time data on hospital A&E waiting times they may have been able to divert us to a hospital with a much shorter time. This is even more important for adult hospitals were the turnover of patients is much higher. Such information could help staff and patients make more informed decisions. The ambulance took us to hospital which was probably appropriate for us but not for everyone. Unfortunately many of the other services like GP out of hours are not always prepared to accept such patients and again the ambulance crews need to know where is available and what access and waiting times they have. Walk-in patients are often also totally inappropriate and an easy method of redirection would be beneficial for all concerned. But this requires change and may even require such radical ideas as paying for transport to take patients to alternative locations if they are more appropraite. The reasons patient's choose A&E when other services would be far more appropriate are many and complex. It can be about transport and convenience and past experiences and many other things. It is likely that at least some of it is that patients often struggle to get an appointment to see their own GP within a reasonable time frame or just that their impression is that it will be difficult to get an appointment so they don't even try. But imagine a system where the waiting times for appointments for all GPs and out of hours services were readily available to hospitals, ambulances, NHS direct etc. Even better imagine that authorised people could book appointments directly, even when the practice was closed. How many patients would be happy to avoid a long wait in A&E if they had the reassurance of a GP appointment the next day? And the technology already exists to do some of this and it wouldn't be that hard to adapt current technology to provide this functionality. Yet it still doesn't happen. I have my theories as to why but this is enough for one post. In case you were wondering my son appears to have made a full recovery with no obvious ongoing problems. I think I have recovered and then he makes the same breathing noises he made just before the fit and I am transported back to that fateful night. I think it will take time for the feelings to fade.
Dr Damian Williams
over 6 years ago
As part as my paediatrics attachment, I was having peripheral nervous system bed side teaching. We had spoken over the examination and I was first up to practice on 4 year old Jake. One consultant and 3 other medical students looked on as I worked my way through the examination. My general inspection and impression of the child got approving nods from my colleagues. Phew! Next up was actual exam “two people can’t resist…” I recalled in my head. First up, tone. I assessed this correctly and nothing had gone majorly wrong yet. Relief. Power was next. “ok, so put out your arms up like this and resist me…ok, no, not like that..erm..oh god…I don’t know how to explain it”. My colleagues looked on. The consultant chipped in “tell him to touch his shoulders”. It did the trick and I was able to get through the rest of the examination without too many hiccups. When we had finished, in classic med school fashion I had to reflect on what had just happened and then say something I did good and something I could have done better. My good thing was “I got through it..I mean I remembered everything”. My bad thing was “I wasn’t good at explaining power to him”. My feedback wasn’t the same as my bad thing though. My feedback was “be more confident. You did everything correctly and didn't forget anything. I think it’s a girl thing. You doubt yourselves more than the boys”. Next up was a male medical student’s turn. He did the examination just fine but there were things that I could pick out that he could have done better and being totally objective my examination was better. But there was a major difference. His confidence. He seemed like he knew what he was doing and when he went wrong or missed something out, he just added it to the end of his examination. If I were his examiner, I would have found it difficult to fault him. He appeared confident and as a patient that inspires confidence and a happy patient makes for a happy examiner and good marks. After the session, I got to thinking: am I really incompetent or am I just underestimating my own ability which is making me lack confidence? The fact that a paediatric consultant and all my colleagues told me that my examination was fine, good even, answers the first part. I am not incompetent. So I must be underestimating my own ability. And if I am, is that something that is unique to me? Or are other medical students doing that too? And more interestingly to me, is this something that the female medical students are doing more than their male colleagues?
over 5 years ago
Pediatric Cardiology Teaching, Class, Lecture conducted by Dr Swati Garekar, Consultant Pediatric Cardiologist. The topic is - Basic Physics of Echocardiogra...
over 3 years ago
Thousands of doctors are currently preparing portfolios and stressing about situational judgements as they go into core and specialty training interviews. As a medical student I wasn’t even aware when these interviews were and had only the briefest imaginings of what they might entail. Even at finals, specialty applications felt a million miles away; but it’s as if you’ve only just got through the misery of MTAS and you’re suddenly an F2 realising that the last 15 months have, to your surprise, disappeared. Yes, the interview is certainly a stressful situation, and for many medics it’s only the second ‘proper’ interview they’ve ever had. Time pressures, the scope of stations and performing under the watchful eye of the great and good of the medical profession only add to the stress. But, there are ways to make this process bearable, and, dare I say it, enjoyable (kind of). The most important step is preparation. Not just the preparation that starts in the days to weeks before the interview; this should be for refining your skills, getting your answers super-slick and getting to know yourself inside-out. Preparation starts at university (and no, which school you’re in doesn’t make a single difference). What the interviewers are looking for can be found in the person specification unique to each specialty (found at http://bit.ly/1eWF6aN). I.e. if you know you were born to perform heart surgery, start looking at what the interviewers for cardiothoracics are looking for. Even if you’re completely confused about your career path, it’s time to start thinking. Many specialties still have a short-listing stage dependent on the application form. Whether assessed on the form or at interview each specialty will (generally) award points for other/higher degrees, publications, presentations, prizes, teaching experience, audit and ‘commitment to specialty’. At the CT1/ST1 stage it doesn’t matter what subject area you published/presented/taught in etc. to score in that section; but having something relevant will help you discuss your commitment to that specialty. ‘Relevant’ in itself is misleading however; every experience is likely to be relevant when you identify the transferable skills involved and what you learned from the experience. Some specialties are stricter and you’ll need demonstrable evidence that you haven’t just applied on a whim. These tend to be the more competitive specialties which demand evidence you’ve had a really good look at what the job involves and have taken steps to broaden your knowledge. There is typically also at least one skills station which may be general (e.g. breaking bad news to a patient) or specialty-specific (e.g. interpreting images for radiology) but are still based on applicants demonstrating they fit the person specification. Many of the mark schemes are also freely available on the relevant Royal College website, and I encourage you to have a look and see where you could get a few more points (or give yourself a pat on the back that you couldn’t). It’s unlikely that the mark scheme/person spec. will be exactly the same every year, but the general overview is enduring. NB. The GP application is a bit different, but that’s for another post. The take home message is get involved early on, and be involved consistently. It may eat up some of your free time but you’ll appreciate it as soon as you look at the application form. If you’re struggling for practical ideas, take a look at the Royal College and specialty trainee websites for inspiration (some, for example the Royal College of Radiologists, have great audit ideas). The RSM and each medical school have a list of available prize essays and exams. A wise person once said to me “there’s no such thing as a wasted conversation”: Speaking to trainees and consultants about how they got to where they are not only gives you great insight into what they do but being friendly and enthusiastic can open up doors for you to help in audits and publications. And the final tip? Write everything down. Not only will this stand you in good stead as a safe doctor, but you’ll be surprised how much you can forget in a very short time. Then, unlike me, you won’t have to spend ages trying to think of reasonable examples of ‘when I dealt with stress’. Written by Lydia Spurr, FY3 Doctor Lydia is a Resident Meducation Blogger
Dr Lydia Spurr
over 5 years ago
Hi. Or rather, #HelloMyNameIs Adam. I like trauma, emergency medicine, PHEC, #FOAMed, twitter and scuba diving (but only when there's sunshine involved afterwards). I also like teaching and education, and I'm one of the final year medical students here in Edinburgh. But for 2 months I wasn't. I was one of the London's Air Ambulance elective students down in Whitechapel at the Royal London Hospital. So as an opening gambit, and by some way of an introduction I thought you might want to hear about that. After all, they're much more interesting than I am, and I can't host you for your elective… I managed to swindle my way into a 2 month elective with LAA just before Christmas 2014 and in a word it was pretty great. For those of you thinking of doing it, just go, now, and apply. Then you can come back and read the rest of my ramblings. For the rest of you, here’s what happened. LAA electives are a bit different, unsurprisingly. To cover its 1800-odd missions a year, LAA runs both their trauma service in two flavours: a helicopter (G-EHMS, aka “Mike Sierra” or MEDIC 1) by day and a car (DA “Delta Alpha” 77 or MEDIC 1 NIGHT) by night, (because apparently, whilst sporting and enjoyable for the pilots, landing in metropolitan areas in the dark is too risky, especially with comparatively empty roads). Alongside the trauma service, there is also a Physician Response Unit (PRU) which responds locally to cardiac arrests to provide quality CPR (along with some advanced post-arrest care like cooling and delivery to a cath lab), but for the most part does jobs for the London Ambulance Service which have been deemed probably not to require hospital, but might benefit from a doctor. There’s a 5 year waiting list for day-time flying shifts, and not much less for the rest of their work, so you’re not going to spend 4, 6 or 8 weeks in a helicopter flying round London taking names and saving lives, in fact the helicopter schedule is totally off-limits to students. Instead you’ll start off scheduled for a couple of night shifts each month and there will be opportunities to see a lot of London Ambulance Service, from the “control” at the Emergency Operations Centre (EOC), to time spent with road crews, and, off the back of some of the folk you’ll meet, a route in to observing with some more specialist units too. (More on that in the future if I run out of other ideas!) As well as the “live” experience there are 5 very experienced senior registrars from a variety of backgrounds as well as the 4 full-time LAA consultants, and opportunities to learn both practical skills and theoretical knowledge from them abound. As it turned out, the PRU was probably my favourite part of the elective. You can read about all the trauma that LAA goes to elsewhere, its splashed all over their shiny new website for a start, and many things have been written about their work (I might even write some more later on!) and there’s even a (not great) telly program on Channel 5. But the PRU is just really cool. I hate that word but it is. It fits into a strange, but now expanding niche in emergency care. That is, it serves to lighten the load both on the ambulance service and on the Emergency Departments of London by going out to people who have called 999 and asked for an ambulance but might in fact be better managed in the community. The work is incredibly varied, you can see older folk with a nasty UTI who couldn’t get to see their GP, you can go to a school and glue the head of a kid who’s taken a nasty fall in the playground, or you can end up in some sheltered housing talking to a lady who’s having the roughest of times and trying to deal with borderline personality disorder to boot. The PRU is crewed about half the time by a small group of GPs and EM docs who have been doing it for a while, usually about once a week or so, and quite often in their own time (in between the rota is made up with the LAA docs who usually work the trauma service). They’re kept firmly in line by an experienced LAS paramedic who is seconded over to run this unit, 9-5, 5 days a week, usually for about a year. As a team, they have perfected their ability to assess a patient using the minimal resources available to them, and as we are so often reminded, quite rightly, it turns out to be all in the history. Some interventions are available to them that aren’t available to paramedics, prescribing antibiotics or other drugs to leave with the patient, bypassing the ED for referral straight to specialists, and doing urine dipsticks being the most used among them; but mostly it is the team’s experience and advanced clinical judgement which makes this unit tick, and empowers them to safely leave so many of their patients at home, with care delivered, advice given, and a plan arranged should anything deteriorate. This wasn’t my first rodeo, I’ve been lucky enough to spend some time with the Scottish Ambulance Service up here in Edinburgh, and have spent more than my fair share of time in our Emergency Department, but it was still impressive to see how these guys dealt with the delicate balance of who to leave at home and who might need a further investigation in hospital. Firstly, this is something that anyone who aspires to work in an emergency department should aspire to be comfortable to do. There are going to be a huge number of people who don’t need to be admitted coming through it every day, wherever it is. The faster and more confidently you can identify their problems, treat them, and crucially, reassure them with appropriate advice, good follow up and a safety net, the better experience they will have. Of course much of this comes with experience and training, but tagging along with teams like this is a fine way to start getting some. Secondly, and this is a bit of a stab in the dark, but I think this idea really might take off. The media is almost swamped with stories of A&E departments being overwhelmed, ambulance services are operating at or near capacity, and we’re struggling to work out how we get the public to access the right care provider for their problem at that time. So maybe this is a solution. Maybe doctors, have a new role to play in assessing people earlier rather than people going through so many steps down a potentially unsuitable line of care. We’re starting to see consultants running triage at A&Es, we’re starting to see doctors out in cars like this. Get in on the ground floor guys and girls, I think we’re going to start being “first on scene” a little more often than we might be used to, even if you never leave the hospital.
over 5 years ago
“To study the phenomena of disease without books is to sail an uncharted sea, while to study books without patients is not to go to sea at all.” The words of Sir William Osler, the acclaimed father of modern medicine, are still no less profound. They hark from an age when medicine still retained a sense of ceremony: an amphitheatre filled to the rafters, the clinicians poised in their white coats and ties, all eyes convergent on their quarry or rather the patient seated before them. Any memory of such scenes live out a vestigial existence in black&white photos or histrionic depictions recalling the rise of modern medicine. To think this is how the tradition of grand rounds proceeded in the not so distant past. Today grand rounds have a more tuitional flavour to them. The Socratic dialogue which reportedly took place has been superseded by the much less appetising PowerPoint presentation. It’s a weekly event marked in the calendar. For the ever-busy junior doctor it at least offers the prospect of a free lunch. I gest, they serve a social as well as an educational function. On the other hand medical student grand rounds are purely a learning exercise. They are most importantly not a race to find and present the most ‘interesting’ case in the trust because this is usually interpretted as a vanishingly rare condition, which even your ejudicating consultant has never encountered in a lifetime of experience. It falls short of the primary aim: to learn about the patients who you will be seeing as a junior doctor and as the addage goes - common things are common. What will make your grand round interesting, is not the patient you choose but how you choose to present that patient. Unfortunately, as fair a point Sir Osler makes, the old practice of patient participation in grand rounds has long since faded. You will have to call upon your thespian talents to retell the story to your fellow students. Of course not everyone’s a natural showman, however fortune favours the prepared and in my experience there are only a handful of things to worry about. Structure. This is the back bone of your presentation. Obviously a solid introductory line about the patient with all the salient points goes without saying, it’s no different to presenting to the consultant on ward rounds or in the clinic. Always set the scene. If you clerked your patient on a hectic night oncall down in majors, then say so. It makes the case less one dimensional. The history is your chance to show off - to consider the presenting complaint expressed in the patient’s own words and to form a working differential, which you can encourage your colleagues to reel off at the outset. The quality of the history should guide your audience to the right diagnosis. Equip them with all the information they need, so not just the positive findings. Showing that you have ruled out important red flag symptoms or signs will illustrate good detective work on your part. However you wish to order the relevant past medical/family history, medications, social impact etc is up to you. It’s a subjective thing, you just have to play the game and cater to the consultant’s likes. You can only gage these after a few cases so do the honourable thing and let your colleagues present first. Performance. Never read your slides in front of an audience. Their attention will rapidly wane (especially if they’re postprandial). The slides are an aide-memoire and to treat them as a script is to admit your presence adds nothing more to your presentation. Communicating with the audience requires you to present uncluttered slides, expanding on short headings and obliging your colleagues to listen for the little nuggets of clinical knowledge you have so generously lain in store. Insight. When the consultant asks you the significance of an investigation, always know on what grounds it was ordered and the limitations of the results. The astute student will be aware of its diagnostic or prognostic potential.The same may be said of imaging. Perusing the radiologists report and using it to guide the audience through (anoynmised) CXRs, CTs, US etc is a feather in your cap. Literature reviews of your choosing constitute a mandatory part of the presentation. They are demonstrative of not only your wider reading but your initiative to find the relevant evidence base e.g. the research underlying the management plan of a condition or perhaps its future treatments. Timing. Waffling is only detrimental to the performance. Rehearsing the presentation with a firm mate is a sure way to keep to time constraints. Memorability, for the right reasons, relies on a concise and interactive presentation. A splash of imagination will not go unnoticed. The consultant marking you has seen it all before; surprising titbits of knowledge or amusing quirks in your presentation will hopefully appeal to their curious and humorous side. If anything it might break the tedium grand rounds are renown for. Oratory is a universal skill and is responsible for so much (undue) anxiety. The more timid can take comfort grand rounds aren’t quite the grand occasions they used to be. Illustrator Edward Wong This blog post is a reproduction of an article published in the Medical Student Newspaper, December 2013 issue.
over 5 years ago
"When did the pain start Mr Smith?" "Ah so do you enjoy it?" 'It' of course refers to your five year medical degree. Patients can be nice can't they. Often it seems that all patients want to talk about is you. I thought the public didn't like students, aren't students lazy drunks who wake up at midday, squander their government hand-outs on designer clothes, and whose prevailing role in society was to keep the nation's budget baked bean industry in the black? Apparently the same isn't thought of medical students, well maybe it is, but god patients are polite. The thing is I have found these questions difficult; it is surprising how they can catch you off guard. Asking if I am enjoying 'it' after I have woken up at dawn, sat on a bus for 40 minutes, and hunted down a clinician who had no idea I was meant to be there, could lead on to a very awkward consultation. But of course it doesn't "yes it is really good thank you". "Do you take any medications, either from your GP or over the counter?" "Are you training to be a GP then?" Medicine is a fascinating topic and indeed career, which surely human nature makes us all interested in. As individuals lucky enough to be studying it, maybe we forget how intriguing the medical profession is? This paired with patients sat in a small formal environment with someone they don’t know could bring out the polite ‘Michael Parkinson’ in anybody. Isn't this just good manners, taking an interest. Well yes. Just because I can be faintly aloof doesn't mean the rest of the world has to me. But perhaps there is a little more to it, we ask difficult personal questions, sometimes without even knowing it, we all know when taking a sexual history to expect the consultation to be awkward or embarrassing, but people can be apprehensive talking about anything, be it their cardiovascular disease, medications, even their date of birth. We often then go on to an examination: inspecting from the end of the bed, exposing a patient, palpating. Given a bit context you can see why a patient may want to shift the attention back to someone like us for a bit, and come on, the medical student is fair game, the best target, asking the consultant whether they enjoys their job, rather you than me. If we can oblige, and make a patient feel a bit more at ease we should, and it certainly won't be doing our student patient relationship any harm. Hopefully next time my answers will be a bit more forthcoming. "Any change in your bowels, blood in any motions?" "How many years do you have left?" It is a good thing we are all polite.
Joe de Silva
over 5 years ago
Commencing the first clinical year is a milestone. Things will now be different as your student career steers straight into the unchartered waters of clinical medicine. New challenges and responsibilities lie ahead and not just in an academic sense. After all this is the awaited moment, the start of the apprenticeship you have so desired and laboured for. It won’t be long before these clinical years like the preclinical years before them, will seem just as distant and insular, so why not make the most of it? The first days hold so much excitation and promise and for many they deliver, however, it would be wise not to be too optimistic. I am afraid your firm head standing abreast the doors in a prophetic splaying of arms is an unlikely sight. In this new clinical environment, it is natural to be a little flummoxed. The quizzical looks of doctors and nurses as you first walk in, a sure sign of your unexpected arrival, is a recurring theme. If the wards are going to be your new hunting ground, proper introductions with the medical team are in order. This might seem like a task of Herculean proportions, particularly in large teaching hospitals. Everyone is busy. Junior doctors scuttling around the ward desks job lists in hand, the registrar probably won’t have noticed you and as luck would have it your consultant firm head is away at a conference. Perseverance during these periods of frustration is a rewarding quality. Winning over the junior doctors with some keenness will help you no end. What I mean to say is that their role in our learning as students extends further than the security of sign-off signatures a week before the end of the rotation. They will give you opportunities. Take them! Although it never feels like it at the time, being a medical student does afford some privileges. The student badge clipped to your new clinic clothes is a license to learn: to embark on undying streaks of false answers, to fail as many skills and clerkings as is required and to do so unabashed. Unfortunately, the junior doctors are not there purely for your benefit, they cannot always spare the time to directly observe a history taking or an examination, instead you must report back. With practice this becomes more of a tick box exercise: gleaning as much information and then reconfiguring it into a structured presentation. However, the performance goes unseen and unheard. I do not need to iterate the inherent dangers of this practice. Possible solutions? Well receiving immediate feedback is more obtainable on GP visits or at outpatient clinics. They provide many opportunities to test your questioning style and bedside manner. Performing under scrutiny recreates OSCE conditions. Due to time pressure and no doubt the diagnostic cogs running overtime, it is fatefully easy to miss emotional cues or derail a conversation in a way which would be deemed insensitive. Often it occurs subconsciously so take full advantage of a GP or a fellow firm mate’s presence when taking a history. Self-directed learning will take on new meaning. The expanse of clinical knowledge has a vertiginous effect. No longer is there a structured timetable of lectures as a guide; for the most part you are alone. Teaching will become a valued commodity, so no matter how sincere the promises, do not rest until the calendars are out and a mutually agreed time is settled. I would not encourage ambuscaded attacks on staff but taking the initiative to arrange dedicated tutorial time with your superiors is best started early. Consigning oneself to the library and ploughing through books might appear the obvious remedy, it has proven effective for the last 2-3 years after all. But unfortunately it can not all be learnt with bookwork. Whether it is taking a psychiatric history, venipuncture or reading a chest X-ray, these are perishable skills and only repeated and refined practice will make them become second nature. Balancing studying with time on the wards is a challenge. Unsurprisingly, after a day spent on your feet, there is wavering incentive to merely open a book. Keeping it varied will prevent staleness taking hold. Attending a different clinic, brushing up on some pathology at a post-mortem or group study sessions adds flavour to the daily routine. During the heated weeks before OSCEs, group study becomes very attractive. While it does cement clinical skills, do not be fooled. Your colleagues tend not to share the same examination findings you would encounter on an oncology ward nor the measured responses of professional patient actors. So ward time is important but little exposure to all this clinical information will be gained by assuming a watchful presence. Attending every ward round, while a laudable achievement, will not secure the knowledge. Senior members of the team operate on another plane. It is a dazzling display of speed whenever a monster list of patients comes gushing out the printer. Before you have even registered each patient’s problem(s), the management plan has been dictated and written down. There is little else to do but feed off scraps of information drawn from the junior doctors on the journey to the next bed. Of course there will be lulls, when the pace falls off and there is ample time to digest a history. Although it is comforting to have the medical notes to check your findings once the round is over, it does diminish any element of mystery. The moment a patient enters the hospital is the best time to cross paths. At this point all the work is before the medical team, your initial guesses might be as good as anyone else’s. Visiting A&E of your own accord or as part of your medical team’s on call rota is well worth the effort. Being handed the initial A&E clerking and gingerly drawing back the curtain incur a chilling sense of responsibility. Embrace it, it will solidify not only clerking skills but also put into practice the explaining of investigations or results as well as treatment options. If you are feeling keen you could present to the consultant on post-take. Experiences like this become etched in your memory because of their proactive approach. You begin to remember conditions associated with patient cases you have seen before rather than their corresponding pages in the Oxford handbook. And there is something about the small thank you by the F1 or perhaps finding your name alongside theirs on the new patient list the following morning, which rekindles your enthusiasm. To be considered part of the medical team is the ideal position and a comforting thought. Good luck. This blog post is a reproduction of an article published in the Medical Student Newspaper, Freshers 2013 issue.
over 5 years ago
It’s quick, it’s easy and we’ve all done it. Don’t blush, whether it’s at our leisure or behind the consultant’s back we can confess to having used the world’s sixth most popular website. You might have seen it, sitting pride of place on the podium of practically any Google result page. Of course, it’s the tell tale sign of one of Web 2.0’s speediest and most successful offspring, Wikipedia. Now for fear of patronizing a generation who have sucked on the teat of this resource since its fledgling years, the formalities will remain delightfully short. Wikipedia is the free, multilingual, online encyclopedia, which harnesses the collective intelligence of the world’s internet users to produce a collaboratively written and openly modifiable body of knowledge. The technology it runs on is a highly flexible web application called wiki. It is open-source software; hence the explosion of wiki sites all united under the banner of combined authorship. Anyone with internet access can edit the content and do so with relative anonymity. It would be unthinkable that a source, which does not prioritize the fidelity of its content, could possibly play a role in medical education. How ironic it seems that medical students can waste hours pondering which textbook to swear their allegiance for the forthcoming rotation, yet not spare a second thought typing their next medical query into Wikipedia. Evidently it has carved itself a niche and not just among medical students, but healthcare professionals as well. According to a small qualitative study published in the International Journal of Medical Informatics, 70% of their sample, which comprised of graduates from London medical schools currently at FY2 and ST1 level, used Wikipedia in a given week for ‘clinical purposes’. These ranged from general background reading to double checking a differential and looking up medications. We are so ensnared by the allure of instantaneous enlightenment; it’s somewhat comparable to relieving an itch. "Just Google it..." is common parlance. We need that quick fix. When the consultant asks about his or her favourite eponymous syndrome or you’re a little short on ammunition before a tutorial, the breadth and ease-of-use offered by a service accessible from our phones is a clandestine escape. The concept of Wikipedia, the idea that its articles are in a way living bodies because of the continual editing process, is its strength. Conversely textbooks are to a degree outmoded by the time they reach their publication date. While I commend the contributors of Wikipedia for at least trying to bolster their pages with references to high impact journals, it does not soften the fact that the authorship is unverifiable. Visitors, lay people, registered members under some less than flattering pseudonyms such as Epicgenius and Mean as custard, don’t impart the sense of credibility students (or for that matter patients)expect from an encyclopedia. Since the prestige of direct authorship if off the cards, it does beg the question of what is their motivation and I’m afraid ‘the pursuit of knowledge and improving humanity’s lot' is the quaint response. There is a distinct lack of transparency. It has become a playground where a contributor can impress his/her particular theory regarding a controversial subject unchallenged. Considering there is no direct ownership of the article, who then has the authority to curate the multiple theories on offer and portray a balanced view? Does an edit war ensue? It is not unheard of for drug representatives to tailor articles detailing their product and erase the less pleasant side-effects. Obviously Wikipedia is not unguarded, defences are in place and there is such a thing as quality control. Recent changes will come under the scrutiny of more established editors, pages that are particularly prone to vandalism are vetted and there are a special breed of editors called administrators, who uphold a custodial post, blocking and banishing rebellious editors. A study featured in the First Monday journal put Wikipedia to the test by deliberately slipping minor errors into the entries of past philosophers. Within 48 hours half of these errors had been addressed. Evidently, the service has the potential to improve over time; provided there is a pool of committed and qualified editors. Wikiproject Medicine is such a group of trusted editors composed primarily of doctors, medical students, nurses, clinical scientists and patients. Since 2004, its two hundred or so participants have graded an excess of 25,000 health-related articles according to quality parameters not dissimilar to peer review. However, the vast majority of articles are in a state of intermediate quality, somewhere between a stub and featured article. Having some degree of professional input towards a service as far reaching as Wikipedia will no doubt have an impact on global health, particularly in developing countries where internet access is considered a luxury. March this year saw the medical pages of the English Wikipedia reach a lofty 249,386,264 hits. Its ubiquity is enviable; it maintains a commanding lead over competing medical websites. The accessibility of this information has catapulted Wikipedia far beyond its scope as a humble encyclopedia and into a medical resource. Patients arrive to clinics armed with the printouts. As future doctors we will have to be just that one step ahead, to recognise the limitations of a source that does not put a premium on provenance but is nevertheless the current public health tool of choice. Illustrator Edward Wong This blog post is a reproduction of an article published in the Medical Student Newspaper, November 2013 issue.
over 5 years ago