October 2017 | Issue 32
A heartening experience during Hospital Week

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By Wang Kaiying, Class of 2022

As if we had suffered a heart attack, my Team-Based Learning team and I were ‘admitted’ to Tan Tock Seng Hospital (TTSH) to better understand patients’ experience on 18 September.

During Hospital Week, my team was attached to the cardiology department at TTSH, and it was truly an eye-opening experience. Throughout the week, we were put in various simulations that allowed us to experience the hospital proceedings from a patient’s perspective. We took turns to be the patient each day, following the main storyline of a patient admitted to the hospital after suffering a heart attack.

In this manner, we saw the resuscitation room, invasive cardiac laboratory, as well as the intensive care unit, and we also witnessed procedures such as an angiography and a transvenous cardiac pacing.

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L-R: Sean Ng goes for a CT scan; Ng Wei Shen tastes some of the medicines frequently prescribed for cardiac patients

These simulated scenarios were extremely engaging, and helped us become aware of a host of small things that we may not otherwise have noticed. One of my teammates, after being connected to the vitals monitor, realised that the beeping of the machine was stressing him, causing his heart rate to be abnormally high.

Another teammate had his face covered while undergoing transvenous cardiac pacing, a procedure during which the patient is conscious, and through the experience realised how helpless and anxious it felt to lie there with a piece of sterile cloth over his face, not knowing what was going to be done to him. All this allowed us to appreciate how vulnerable and disoriented patients might feel, and prompted us to t​hink of ways in which we could help to make things better for them.

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Farhan Ishraq and I purchasing coffee as a patient and caregiver to experience being and caring for someone wheelchair-bound

We also did a morning shift with the nurses in the coronary care unit (CCU). For many of us, it was our first time in an intensive care unit, and it was a solemn moment as we took in our surroundings and saw the critically ill patients hooked up to the various monitoring and life support machines. During the shift, we also saw first-hand how the nurses took care of a lot of things on the ward, from sponging and turning patients to monitoring and charting their parameters.

We were very inspired by the nurses’ dedication to their work and care for patients, as well as their willingness to teach us about what they were doing. Through our attachments with the outpatient clinics, nuclear cardiology laboratory and cardiac rehabilitation clinics, we also realised the importance of teamwork as almost everything that takes place in a hospital is made possible by the combined team effort of the doctors, nurses, radiologists, technicians, health attendants, and other healthcare workers.

Ultimately, we left Hospital Week with a few major takeaways. Firstly, when we begin to practice as doctors, it is important for us to remember that, although a certain case may be just another one of the hundreds or thousands of similar cases we have seen, it is likely to be the patient’s first time. As such, we should always try to treat each case as a new one, so as to provide the best, most comforting, most reassuring care to the patient.

Secondly, communication is important not just when interacting with patients, but also when interacting with the multidisciplinary healthcare team to ensure coordinated care. Lastly, seeing the patients on the wards and in the ​clinics was a reminder of how fulfilling it was to follow patients through their journey of recovery, and reaffirmed our commitment to medicine.

Overall, Hospital Week was an enriching and inspiring week. This would not have been possible without the dedication and effort by the TTSH cardiology department, and we wish to thank them for planning the programme and for being ever so willing to answer our questions.

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Team photo with Dr Chia Yew Woon and Advanced Practice Nurse Jiang Yan from the TTSH cardiology department