Friday, 16 March 2012

The eternal struggle to get into clinic

The eternal struggle to get into clinic

Everyone knows getting into a secondary care clinic as a patient can be difficult, what with the occasionally massive waiting lists etc. But sometimes it feels like its just as hard to get to sit in a clinic as a student!

One of the main problems is often persuading whoever is sitting on reception to allow you to even find out from the doctor if they are happy letting you sit in on their clinic. My year at medical school is massively over sized because lots my orginial year intercalated like myself but very few of the orginal year below intercalated meaning that when we dropped back down into the year below the new year group was suddenly massive. As a result the medical school had to find a way to squeeze us all in to clinical sessions somehow.  The result of this has been having clinics that are further away, clinics which have more students in than ideal and some lectures where we have literally had to share seats! 

The doctors running clinics have agreed to take a given number of students per a clinic which is higher than normal in order to try and prevent us losing out on clinical experience, so this year clinics that traditionally only took 1 person now take 2 and some 2 people clinics now take 3 students.  Unfortunately news of this either hasn't reached nurses/ person manning reception desk or they just don't approve of so many students in one clinic and make it difficult for us to get in there anyway.  Its a difficult position for us to be in because on one hand we as medical students to do not want to get on the wrong side of the nursing staff and they do have the power to stop us from getting to clinic, on the other hand if we don't get into the clinics we are timetabled for then we will fall down on attendance as it is very difficult to get into another clinic as a different student will be timetable for that one (and whilst there are an irritating subset of students who will happily steal a clinic from you by turning up a lot earlier than the scheduled time meaning when you get there on time you get told "No sorry theres already too many students here", I am proud to say I am not one of them).  

So clinics become an exercise in diplomacy just to get into them, and then if after all that struggle you end up with a doctor who doesn't teach you and entirely ignores you, it certainly doesn't leave you in a particularly great mood by the time you've wasted a multitude of hours learning nothing....

I've just started ophthalmology and so because its not a particularly sensitive area, I have been scheduled to sit in a clinic every wednesday morning for four weeks where there are 3 students in the room.  The corner where us students were crammed was tight (i was quite literally hugging up to the sink) but the patients side of the room was still spacious and none of them seemed to mind us being there and the doctor was more than happy to have all three of us and said he was used to having so many students on a wednesday morning. Yet you wouldn't have thought this was a weekly occurrence from the response I got from the nurse when I turned up 5mins before the clinic was scheduled (and standardly 30 mins before the doctor actually appeared!):

Me: Hi I'm a fourth year medical student, i'm due to sit in a clinic with Dr x *winning smile*
Nurse: *Impatient shake of head* No there's already two students here, you will have to come back some other time.
Me: Oh ummmm we are timetabled to have three of us here every wednesday.....
Nurse: *tuts* That too many.
Me: Oh ummmm err its just thats what we are timetabled...* apologetic look*
Nurse: *sigh* Do we really NEED three of you??
Me: Resists urge to say that we are students and the department never really needs us but we need to be here for our education and are due to be here and the hospital recieves extra funding for taking students and being a teaching hospital
Me: ummm errrr timetable errrr errrrr ummmm :/ 
Nurse: SIGH, fine follow me, will see if the doctor lets you stay when he arrives.
Me: *scuttles after*

Fortunately this particular clinic ( if I had a pound for every time I had had this conversation this year I could probably stop renting and buy my own house, sadly sometimes we never get into the clinic we are meant to be attending) was good (I finally managed to see the Optic disc through an ophthalmoscope, wooooop!) and the doctor very kindly taught us lots despite being busy.  Good thing it was good as I predict the same struggle this wednesday, and next and next and then it will some other poor group of students turn :p.  So spare a thought for the poor student (s) huddling in the corner next time you see the doctor they may have had more of a struggle to get to be there than you! 

I'm not saying I think there should be quite as many students in clinics/ theatre as shown  here mind you! 


  1. That photo is quite frightening on the part of the patient. Too many eyes on one body. :) And I love the persistence of yours just to get into the clinic, eh. :)

    Peny@uniform discount

  2. I know its a picture we've been shown quite a few times in lectures of how it used to be, its insane. Also i'm glad medicine is a little less male dominated than in that picture too! One thing thats not changed if you look closely tho is that several of the medical students are asleep ;)

  3. haha. Males are considered as doctors before and women as nurses, very stereotypical and degrading to the female population. Glad that nowadays, both gender have the right to be physicians as well as nurses. btw, the lecture could be boring that's why many are sleeping. lol. :)

  4. Oh I know, sexism is still rife in peoples opinions of what your role must be based on your gender. I turned up for a GP placement once in first year and was asked by a lovely (they were lovely, just misguided and out of date) elderly couple if I was on placement as a trainee receptionist. Receptionists don't do placements :/.

    And yeah either that or a wild night the day before ;)