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A Week in the Life Of... A 4th Year Medical Student!

Updated: Jan 23, 2021


Monday – here’s hoping to a great start to the week! After grabbing my trusty golden syrup porridge and a strong cup of coffee I’m ready for the day. Today I have a full day of online learning (thanks, COVID) via MS Teams and on the university specific platform. I’m currently on my secondary care placement (oncology and palliative care) at the moment, so a lot of my private study is based around the 4 commonest types of cancer (Breast, prostate, lung and gastrointestinal) as well as the common treatment regimens and side-effects that are associated with those.

Today our online learning was more based around communication skills and how to break bad news sensitively. During the teaching, the doctor/honorary lecturer said something that really resonated with me today – “sometimes the worst bad news is often when people leave your room not knowing that they have been given bad news”. This really made me think of how to achieve the right tone when delivering bad news, as I’m definitely someone who likes to sugar coat things, but in a lot of situations within Medicine, it’s just imperative to be as empathetic – but also as honest as possible.

In between my online learning I also organised my 2020/2021 tenancy today with my flatmates. We’re staying in the same flat as we live in now – yay! We’re all relieved as an unnecessary move would definitely not have been welcomed (I have a LOT of clothes). I texted my mum to tell her the news – she told me not to worry about it and she was right (as always!)


Today I was scheduled to be in a radiotherapy review clinic, but when I arrived it had been cancelled (boo!) Although every cloud has a silver lining – it was nice(ish) weather today so I managed to have a lovely walk and enjoy some fresh air. I even managed to chat with an old friend on my way home when I seen her getting off the same bus. After arriving back home from my failed attempt at placement, I completed some revision on long-term conditions (e.g. Diabetes, hypertension, COPD) and looked through some videos of clinical examinations to refresh my memory. My oncology/palliative care placement also has a primary care element attached to it whereby I am required to learn essential long-term management of some chronic conditions like those mentioned above. I intercalated after 3rd year so it always feels like a LONG time since I have done a lot of things Medicine related, although slowly but surely I’m getting there! After getting through some work, I chatted to my Dad and worked my way through my Christmas chocolate collection (my favourite part of the day!).


Today I have a virtual ward round. Cool right?! It works like this – the doctor wears Virtual Reality (VR) goggles, medical students are signed in on a MS Teams call. When the doctor is seeing a patient on the ward round, we take a ‘history’ from the patient – typing in any questions we have into the chat function on MS Teams. The doctor then sees these questions and asks the patient directly, and when the patient responds we can see/hear them through the VR goggles. I think it’s very admirable how many clever people have envisioned innovative ways to ensure medical education remains as high quality as possible through this pandemic.

After the VR ward round and teaching, I relaxed and listened to some music for a little while and continued binge watching How To Get Away With Murder on Netflix (SO good, would definitely recommend!)

Towards the end of the afternoon, I also began preparing for my shift at work. I’m able to work from home (yay) as I’m a judge/chairperson for regional debating competitions in the UK. I work for the English-Speaking Union (ESU) and take shifts on an ad-hoc basis to fit around Medicine. Today the whole debating competition was on zoom, so it was interesting to be the judge for this, as previously all of the competitions I had judged have been in person. However, it worked well, and all of the children involved gave excellent speeches.


Today I successfully managed to get some in-person placement time! This morning I was paired with a lovely consultant in the outpatient urology clinic. This clinic is for people who have been diagnosed with mostly kidney and bladder cancers. Although it was a telephone clinic, the consultant kindly gave me my own room and allowed me to have a telephone consultation with one of her patients after she had already talked to him. This patient was so kind and interesting. He told me about his journey from diagnosis until now, and how his kidney cancer diagnosed had affected some aspects of his life, but other aspects remained the same. He was very optimistic and cheerful, which allowed me to reflect upon the mental ramifications a cancer diagnosis may have on thousands of patients, but which protective factors will allow them to still maintain a good quality of life – a life that is worth living from their own perspective.

Despite my great morning, the afternoon did not end so well. It all began with a snowy disaster. It had been snowing lightly in Leeds when I had left home on the morning, so I had (smartly) decided to put my wellies on. When I left the urology clinic, I was greeted with deep snow. The hospital shuttle buses had been stopped, public buses had also been stopped and all local taxis were quoting at least a 2hr wait due to the snow. As all annoying/bad things seem to happen in sequence, my phone died as I was waiting for the taxi. On the bright side, I met a lovely nurse while I was waiting in the hospital, and as we were chatting, she made the time pass by a lot quicker! Fast forward 4hrs later, and I was finally home (with VERY cold feet). The Christmas chocolate supply was definitely needed this day.


FRI(YAY!) Today I was only timetabled for a 1hr online learning session via MS Teams. This session was very useful, as a consultant oncologist went through a series of case studies based on oncological emergencies and what to do in these situations. I learnt about metastatic cord compression, superior vena cava obstruction and neutropenic sepsis. It did not surprise me the immediate management plan for metastatic cord compression was to give 16mg dexamethasone and adequate gastric protection, if in doubt in an MCQ I always choose dexamethasone!! Dexamethasone seems to me like a potato, it is a multi-functional QUEEN!

My Friday ended with a bit of relaxation, more binge watching How To Get Away With Murder, and video calling my lovely boyfriend to complain about my chocolate addiction (he is a saint for listening!) I’m definitely looking forward to a few days off, although I’m on-call on Sunday so hopefully I can get more patient contact and hands-on experience. Fingers crossed!

Written By 4th Year Medical Student (Anonymous), University of Leeds


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