April 2015 | ISSUE 17
Making the most of the clinical years

By Nicole L​im
Assistant Director, Communications & External Relations

IMG_9714.JPGWhile Team-Based Learning sessions and tutorials help LKCMedicine students get to grips with the medical and clinical science, there's a lot more to be learnt and experienced during clinical rotations.

One of the most helpful things is to understand the set up and structure of the hospital and the wards and clinics within, according to Advanced Practice Nurse Jamie Lim. For example, at Tan Tock Seng Hospital, wards have a mix of patients coming under the care of different specialists. So knowing where to find out if the patient comes under the care of the internal medicine or cardiovascular team is important. To help with that, at each patient cubicle, the photo IDs of the care team are displayed. 

"But most important is to recognise the different professionals by their uniform and who is in charge of what, then you know whom to ask for help or advice when you want to get things done," added Ms Lim. Knowing how to tap into this network can get you help in identifying other patients who won't mind being examined or when to make yourself scarce.

"Always check with the registered or enrolled nurse looking after a patient before you examine him," said Advanced Practice Nurse Geraldine Ng, as some patients and their families explicitly request not to be examined by students.

Working in a hospital not only comes with a whole different set up, but also a whole new encyclopedia of acronyms for students to master. But knowing an OT (occupational therapist) from an NC (nurse clinician) and an MSW (medical social worker) from a HCA (health care attendant) can make following a doctor's or colleague's instructions much easier.

"Don't be afraid to clarify, if the instructions don't make sense," said Ms Ng.

Of course, basics like good hand hygiene are another important part life on the wards. Keeping things, whether they are case notes or water bottles, in their proper place and not littered around the wards is another easy way to fit in.

As newcomers to a ward, a good way to impress is to introduce yourself to the nurse manager in charge, according to Ms Ng. "Being polite and friendly when you pass a colleague around the hospital also goes a long way," she added. 

Summing up how to get the most out of the clinical years, Ms Lim said, "One should be aware of the software, that's the people, patients, families; the hardware, that is to say the ward surroundings, files and notes; and the dynamic interaction between the two. There's no magic formula to ease medical students into the complex healthcare system and some may experience some form of 'culture shock', but that's part of learning resilience."​