It begins. Yesterday I was in hospital for ten hours, the day before: eight. The first six weeks of final year are a ‘gentle reintroduction to clinical work’. This translates to a rough-around-the edges working week, complete with 7:50 starts and an optional lunch break. Lovely.

When I was a third year things were clear-cut: the job of any medical student is to be the most useless person on the ward at any given time. Both the staff and the student know that anything the student does takes twice as long, uses twice as much kit and produces results around half as frequently as staff doing the same task but everyone pretends that this is not the case. With this knowledge firmly in mind I spent a year alternating between ward wallflower and a walking shelf. It was only at the end of the year that I began to understand how to use third year, and by then of course the hail of pain that was intermediates had come crashing down and it was far too late.

Final year, then. I can’t decide if it is just the new ID badge or the extra experience, but somehow opportunities just spring into existence everyward I go. I spent six weeks on a respiratory ward in third year and the most I ever did was follow the ward round like some kind of ornamental stethoscope, and examine some patients who really earned that pun.  Last week, I spent half an hour on that same ward and in that time was snatched up to do my first arterial blood gas. Minutes later I was told to take a history from a patient to bring back and present to the doctors, with all the teaching that brings with it. Now, a week later, I am asked by the doctors to go and do the blood gases when they are busy, interpret them, stick them in the notes and to let them know if there is anything abnormally amiss.* I write the notes on the ward rounds in the morning, so that everything moves more quickly. I put in cannulas and I take bloods. I am not always successful, but neither are the doctors. Crucially, I am a participating and useful member of the much touted multi-disciplinary team

You know what? It feels incredible.

It is so, so good to be back.

* I say abnormally amiss because the ABG results of respiratory patients are nearly always awful. In fact, the results some of them have at home would be enough to get someone my age admitted to intensive care.


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