So I recently did my child health (paediatrics) placement and I have to say that I absolutely loved it. It was the best placement I have ever been on. I’m not just saying that because I was surrounded by cute babies and kids, but that definitely contributed to it.
During my gap year I volunteered in a children’s hospital as a play volunteer and I absolutely loved that. So I came into medical school with paediatrics in my mind though I didn’t let that give me tunnel vision. I was open to the experiences of other specialties and I have thoroughly enjoyed placements in neurosurgery and endocrine, just not as much as paediatrics.
I felt that the environment on a paediatric ward is lot more pleasant than on an adult ward. A ward full of seriously ill children is potentially a recipe for a very gloomy atmosphere, however it felt the complete opposite. I think the main reason for that is down to all the staff. In adult wards often a patient may never fully recover from a serious illness. The thought of a child losing out on their childhood because of an illness is horrendous and all the staff are working especially hard to get that child better. This mentality can be felt just after spending a day with the doctors, nurses and other staff. Every person I encountered on the ward was friendly and chatty, from the cleaners to the receptionists to the doctors, I’m now under the impression that it is a prerequisite to be a nice person in order to work in paediatrics.
I was shocked by the shortages in staffing on paediatrics. Almost every NHS hospital is currently severely understaffed, from my experiences, but I thought that surely they would never allow under-staffing on a children’s ward. All the doctors that I spent time with were always so dedicated and just by watching them you could tell that they were in their element, it was really inspiring to see. They were always forthcoming with teaching, often giving us teaching during their lunch breaks. One registrar in particular, M, stayed after his night shift to organise things just for our education.
A few of the consultants have left lasting impressions and made a massive impact on me. Dr K, the consultant in charge of the placement, was one of the best consultants I have ever encountered. His manner with all the patients and their parents was always so friendly yet professional and he somehow found a way to relate to every patient through a topic of conversation. I have been on a few placements where the consultants just ignore the students on the ward rounds, clinics and meetings. Dr K never let a chance for teaching to pass by. He would educate not only the students and doctors but also the nurses and health care assistants at every possible opportunity.
Another consultant who made a big impact on me was Dr N, an endocrine specialist. In her clinics she deals with a lot of childhood obesity. I watched her telling off many children in clinic in a very motherly caring way, a tough love approach. I was surprised at how she addressed the topic of bullying with many of the patients or their parents, it just showed how much she truly cared for her patients and it was inspiring.
Each placement I am on I feel myself grow as a person as well as academically. I have been on this placement with 3 other amazing students; A, J and R. I will miss their company and it is always a privilege to share such an amazing experience with amazing people. I feel that I have learnt a lot from them. Being on placement with people you get on with makes an enormous difference to the overall experience. J pretends to shoot you whenever he sees you which I love; R just winks at you in a really cheeky way that makes you think he’s sharing a secret with you; A has made me laugh a lot during this placement and most importantly she kept me going through those long on-call days and weekends. Just these little things that they do makes life a little more interesting.
This placement has been the most hands-on placement and allowed me to develop professionally more than any other placement I have had so far. The doctors allowed me to see patients before them, asked me to come to a conclusion and then suggest a plan going forward. I have never had this much responsibility placed on me before. Initially it was scary but by the end of the placement I felt confident and it certainly pushed me to improve my medical practice. I have learnt a great deal from this placement and I hope that I can be as good as the dedicated, inspirational doctors that I have encountered on paediatrics.
What I enjoyed the most about this placement is that it gave me an excuse to let my inner child loose and allowed me to be big kid. I honestly consider myself as a child; at times I am very immature and I love being able to be immature. Children have such unique and optimistic outlooks on life and I try to apply that in my life. It breaks my heart to see a sick child and I want to give that child their smile back. Because a happy child is a healthy child.
Take home message of the blog: At 22 years old I cannot get away from the responsibilities of being an adult yet I still feel like a child. I have been called a big kid by many people. I feel that there is nothing wrong with that though. Being more childlike allows you to have a different perspective on life. It contributes to having more imagination which results in creativity. I would like to share a very poignant quote by C.S Lewis which really connects with me:
“Critics who treat ‘adult’ as a term of approval, instead of as a merely descriptive term, cannot be adult themselves. To be concerned about being grown up, to admire the grown up because it is grown up, to blush at the suspicion of being childish; these things are the marks of childhood and adolescence. And in childhood and adolescence they are, in moderation, healthy symptoms. Young things ought to want to grow. But to carry on into middle life or even into early manhood this concern about being adult is a mark of really arrested development. When I was ten, I read fairy tales in secret and would have been ashamed if I had been found doing so. Now that I am fifty I read them openly. When I became a man I put away childish things, including the fear of childishness and the desire to be very grown up.”