Hello and welcome.
If you are one of the few who have been following my blog since last year then you may be aware of a certain promise that has yet to be fulfilled... That promise is of a new set of schematic images similar to my Arterial Schematic that seems to have gained some popularity on Meducation.
The truth of the matter is that I have actually been working on a separate project since finishing my finals. This separate project has involved making the website and doing some of the design work for 'Anatomy For Life,' an exciting medically-related charity art auction and exhibition. The event is due to be held in Brighton (venue TBC) during National Transplant week (8-14th July) to help raise money for organ donation and body donation via the charity; 'Live Life Then Give Life'.
Where you come in...
The exciting thing about the Anatomy For Life (AFL) art auction is that we are looking for everyone and anyone to donate. It doesn't matter if you get usually get paid £1,000 per drawing or if you haven't picked up a paintbrush since school. Each and every donation will be displayed on a level playing field, giving the unique opportunity for amateurs to pitch up against the professional medical illustrators out there and vice versa! As long as the artwork donated fits the criteria below you have free reign:
Artwork submitted must be (at least loosely) associated with the 'Anatomy' theme.
Artwork submitted must be on roughly A6 card (4"x6"). The AFL team recommend a paper weight of 250gsm or above.
Create your artwork using any art media you choose on/with the A6 card.
Sign the BACK of your masterpiece, but not the front*
Donations should be received by the 17th June 2013
*The AFL team will be exhibiting the art work shown and running the auction anonymously. Artists will not be attributed to their donations until after the event via our online gallery.
Once you have completed you artwork(s) you should fill out our downloadable information form and provide us with your name, a short bio about you and what inspired your donated artwork. You can also let us know if you want the AFL team to e-mail you a certificate in recognition of your contribution!
Organ donation is the act of donating ones organs or tissues to help save someone else's life after your own passing. One person can donate enough organs to save several peoples lives, which in the minds of many is a truly admirable feat! Body donation usually refers to the act of donating ones own body to medical education, so that students may continue to learn the real-life anatomy that forms part of becoming a competent doctor or surgeon.
Organ donation is currently on the rise in the U.K thanks to the fantastic work of the Organ Donor Register and the charities that support organ donation such as 'Live Life Then Give Life'. However, the U.K still has one of the highest family-refusal rates in Europe for organ donation. It is hoped that by raising awareness of the benefits of organ donation this refusal rate can be reduced either by more people being registered organ donors or by families having more access to information about the topic.
We really want to hear from you...
If you have something you think might benefit our project please do let us know!
Go To Our Main Website
Donate Artwork to Us!
Tweet to Us on Twitter
Like Us on Facebook
Thats all folks,
Complimentary medicine (CAM) is controversial, especially when it is offered by the NHS! You only have to read the recent health section of the Telegraph to see Max Pemberton and James LeFanu exchanging strong opinions. Most of the ‘therapies’ available on the market have little to no evidence base to support their use and yet, I believe that it has an important role to play in modern medicine.
I believe that CAM is useful not because of any voodoo magic water or because the soul of a tiger lives on in the dust of one of its claws but because modern medicine hasn’t tested EVERYTHING yet and because EVERY DOCTOR should be allowed to use a sugar pill or magic water to ease the anguish of the worried well every now and again. The placebo effect is powerful and could be used to help a lot of patients as well as save the NHS a lot of money.
I visited my grandfather for a cup of coffee today. As old people tend to do we discussed his life, his life lessons and his health . My grandfather is 80-something years old and worked as a collier underground for about 25 years before rising up through the ranks of management. In his entire life he has been to hospital twice: Once to have his tonsils removed and once to have a TKR – total knee replacement. My granddad maintains that the secret of his good health is good food, plenty of exercise, keeping his mind active and 1 dried Ivy berry every month! He takes the dried ivy berries because a gypsie once told his father that doing so would prevent infection of open wounds; common injuries in those working under ground. It is my granddad’s firm belief that the ivy berries have kept him healthy over the past 60 years, despite significant drinking and a 40 year pack history! My grandfather is the only person I know who takes this quite bizarre and potentially dangerous CAM, but he has done so for over half a century now and has suffered no adverse effects (that we can tell anyway)!
This has led me to think about the origin of medicine and the evolution of modern medicine from ancient treatments: Long ago medicine meant ‘take this berry and see what happens’. Today, medicine means ‘take this drug (or several drugs) and see what happens, except we’ll write it down if it all goes wrong’. Just as evidence for modern therapies have been established, is there any known evidence for the ivy berry and what else is it used for?
My grandfather gave me a second piece of practical advice this afternoon, in relation to the treatment of open wounds:
To stop bleeding cover the wound in a bundle of spiders web. You can collect webs by wrapping them up with a stick, then slide the bundle of webs off the stick onto the wound and hold it in place.
If the wound is quite deep then cover the wound in ground white pepper.
I have no idea whether these two tips actually work but they reminded me of ‘QuickClot’ (http://www.z-medica.com/healthcare/About-Us/QuikClot-Product-History.aspx) a powder that the British Army currently issues to all its frontline troops for the treatment of wounds. The powder is poured into the wound and it forms a synthetic clot reducing blood loss. This technology has been a life-saver in Afghanistan but is relatively expensive. Supposing that crushed white pepper has similar properties, wouldn’t that be cheaper? While I appreciate that the two are unlikely to have the same level of efficacy, I am merely suggesting that we do not necessarily dismiss old layman’s practices without a little investigation. I intend to go and do a few searches on pubmed and google but just thought I’d put this in the public domain and see if anyone has any corroborating stories.
If your grandparents have any rather strange but potentially useful health tips I’d be interested in hearing them. You never know they may just be the treatments of the future!
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.
Choosing a career path is one of the hardest (non-clinical) decisions many doctors will face in their professional lives. With almost 100 specialties and sub-specialties available, settling on any one career can seem pretty daunting, particularly as in the majority of cases the choice will set a path you’re likely to be on for the next 30+ years. But, with only a very small range of these specialties and almost none of the sub-specialties available to undertake as rotations during any one foundation programme, finding out what actually working in different specialties is like can be difficult. It’s likely you’ll have at least identified an area you’re kind of/maybe interested in before starting the foundation programme but, to use a total cliché, you wouldn't buy a car without taking it for a test drive, right?
There is good evidence to show that any experience, even if only brief, can be very influential on career choice and this is why all deaneries offer new doctors to undertake a ‘taster week’ at some point during the Foundation Programme. This is usually from 2-5 days, taken as study leave, in a specialty of the doctor’s choosing which they haven’t and won’t work during their foundation programme. Most hospitals will allow doctors to do this at an external hospital or organisation if the desired specialty isn't available locally. Tasters are often organised by the trainee but deaneries are encouraged to provide a list or register of structured taster programmes to its trainees. A timetable split into half-day activities, including time for 1:1 discussion with both consultants and trainees, should be provided or agreed with a supervisor, which gives the doctor as broad an experience of the roles, responsibilities, highlights, challenges and lifestyle of the specialty as possible. This should then give the doctor plenty of food for thought and provide an opportunity for (you guessed it) reflection to confirm or exclude that specialty as a career choice and identify (if the former) what steps they need to take to get there. At the end of the experience the doctor should fill in a feedback form and formally reflect in their portfolio.
Taster weeks aren't limited to particular specialties and sub-specialties either; there are plenty of more over-arching opportunities such as experiencing leadership and management roles or getting involved in academia, research or medical education. As long as you can identify and describe what you’ll aim to learn or understand from the experience, almost any taster is possible.
So, how do you go about it? Each deanery should have a policy relating to taster weeks, or have an responsible administrator who can provide advice. Talking to your educational supervisor can also be really useful. Considering early on in FY1 which area or specialty you want to explore is important; time runs out scarily quickly and taking time out of rotations needs careful planning and co-ordination to make sure there is enough cover for your day job. You may already know or have identified an appropriate supervisor who will facilitate the experience but if not, your supervisor or administrator will almost certainly be able to point you in the right direction.
You’ll never get to experience every possible career path before starting out on one; the specialty or sub-specialty you eventually work in may not even exist yet. But getting an idea of what you’ll definitely consider, or definitely won’t, will give you a better chance of identifying something that will suit you personally and professionally, and, particularly in the more competitive and run-though specialties will give you another example of commitment to specialty. Don’t be afraid to think outside the box or look at something really niche – it may give you a taste for something unexpected that you’ll love for life.