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Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Tips for medical students: How to Survive Ward Rounds

1. Turn up early for the ward rounds and introduce (that is, ingratiate) yourself to the house officer. The house officer will probably know who the new patients are and will give you a brief summary of their problems (if you ask nicely), so that you can do a bit of quick reading before the round. Chances are, the questions directed at you during the round will be related to the new patients. It is also good to bear in mind that each consultant has a set of pet questions that he or she likes to use to torture unsuspecting medical students with - the junior doctors will know all about them and will be able to help you out before the round starts.

2. Introduce yourself to the nurse-in-charge - he or she is the boss of the ward, so it's very important for him/her to know who you are and why you are loitering around. The nurse-in-charge will also know your consultant's idiosyncracies!

3. Bring your own stethescope and pen torch. It looks sloppy if you have to keep borrowing the house officer's precious stethescope.

4. Carry a notebook - useful for doodling and for writing random things down that you want to look up on Google later on. Additonally, some consultants really like to see their students looking busy and interested.

5. Invest in good quality footwear. Comfortable, sensible shoes are key to your survival on the ward round. If you have not yet mastered the Doctor-walk, you will probably find yourself limping pathetically behind everyone else as they sprint up and down the stairs on the 3 hour ward round. You need to try to keep up with the pace of the ward round, even if you're bored to pieces. If you slow down the ward round, you will incur the eternal wrath of the junior doctors.

6. Get organised. Medical students tend to hang at the back of ward rounds because they don't want to get in the way. This is one of the reasons why students will get ignored during their clinical attachment. You can be useful by anticipating what the doctors want to know and having that information in front of you, ready and waiting. During each ward round, doctors always do the same things with every patient - check the observations charts, drug charts, get notes and Xrays. By dividing up simple tasks amongst yourselves (one student to get the notes of the next patient, one to get the Xrays/Blood results, one to hold the obs charts etc.), you can each get a chance to be involved as part of the medical team.

7. Be observant. For heaven's sake, if you see the junior doctors struggling to carry files and X-rays, HELP THEM!!!

8. Don't sneak off. If you need to leave the ward round early, let the doctors know. Contrary to what you might think, your sudden absence from the round is noticeable. Sometimes, a well-meaning consultant may slow down the ward round (eternal wrath!) to wait for you to catch up, only to become annoyed when it is clear that you have disappeared.

9. Be prepared. Carry a small bottle of drinking water and some sweeties. You never know how long these ward rounds take! Sweeties are also useful for bribing nurses and junior doctors.

10. Afterwards, stick around. If the consultant doesn't whisk you away after the round for a quick teaching session, it is best to ask the house officer if there are any post-round jobs you can help with or observe. The junior doctors are well aware of your (poorly-hidden) desire to go for lunch, so they will be impressed that you've offered to help out. You never know, they might even treat you to coffee afterwards!

Don't forget that if you slow down the ward round or otherwise anger the junior doctors (eternal wrath!), you can redeem yourself via a Dance Of Humilation, as demonstrated by the Australian Medical Student in the following clip:

(Dance, Med Student, dance! Faster!)

Thanks to mmsafe for the video.


Blogger Woof! said...

heh... to some extent, it applies for many jobs! We used to have a mental checklist of the partner's usual questions and required details whenever we presented our "case" to him in 3 minutes...

10:19 am  
Blogger tscd said...

woof!: Yes, it's worthwhile to know the boss's quirks, isn't it?

6:02 pm  

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