Monday, June 18, 2012

Ward Etiquette.

My last post was for non-medical students so here is one for medical students. Going onto the wards is quite an exciting thing if it is your first time, but there are a few "unwritten" rules that medical students should know about. Either you learn about em by hearing it from an upper year...or learn by experience (eg. being told off by a nurse). So I'll save some of you from any embarrassment/telling off by doing a quick post on ward etiquette.

Hopefully your medical school will make the hospital aware that you'll be coming to their department for your clinical attachment, BUT there will times where the ward/hospital will not be expecting you. First rule is to turn up to your placement ON TIME - even better: show up a bit earlier. Nothing more frustrating than expecting a student and them either not showing up or showing up late. It is important to leave a good impression. Nurses are quite good at passing on feedback to doctors/consultants. Last thing you want to be known is as a disrespectful student. These nurses can actually make your life very difficult.

Next must-do is to dress appropriately. You guys probably won't believe me but I have had colleagues who show up to placement in a hoodie. Yes it is cold outside, but before showing up on the ward where all the patients are...take off your hoodie and look presentable before you go into the ward/hospital. Some of the staff/patients won't know you have just arrived and no one wants to be seen by a poorly dressed student. I'm pretty sure if you were a patient, you wouldn't want to see a doctor who is in a hoodie/not looking presentable. I've also had friends who have been told to get off the ward because their shirts were not ironed. For girls, heard of female medical students getting kicked off the wards for showing too much cleavage and for short skirts. General rule is that if you bend over you shouldn't be able to see anything in the mirror. Skirts should be below the knees. I save myself from the hassle and wear trousers instead of it isn't very glorious when you're in a skirt and you have to help move a patient or lift things (which I do a lot of as I feel bad watching nurses struggle).

I will always remember this key point: "You will never get kicked out of medical school for not showing up to one day of placement, BUT you can get kicked out for showing up to placement hungover/drunk". If you had a night-out the day before and you're hungover/still drunk...take a sick day. The quote just stated...says it all.

Nothing frustrates me more than seeing my colleagues disrespect the staff. I'm usually quite a modest student, but I like to think I am quite successful with getting along with staff/consultants. My friends always ask me how I become so friendly with consultants/why doctors/staff treat me like a friend. Simple: Respect them first. It is quite annoying to see some students being very arrogant. I was on a placement with another student and he thinks he is the best thing to have graced the hospital. When a consultant asks him to get something...he goes and tells the nurse to get it for him. He treats the nurses like slaves and at the end of the day - you are just a medical student. I have stated it in many many posts that we are probably the LEAST important thing in the entire hospital. I have had a professor talk to us about "knowing our place in the hospital". You cannot go wrong by assuming that you are less important than the janitor. And ever since that day - I go onto the wards and respect every single member of staff. Nurses are your saving grace. If they like you - they will make your life so much easier. Best bit is that they sometimes remind you of things and bail you out if a consultant is being a bit "uncooperative/unfriendly". A way to show your respect to the nurses? Everyone loves a cup of tea. I have lost count the number of teas I have made for the nurses. In my last Obs and Gynae placement...I made 2 pots of tea for all the midwives every 2 hours. They made my life so easy and they passed on very good feedback to my supervisor as well.

When talking to patients - first ask the nurses if the patient is a good patient to talk to. Always introduce yourself before going to talk to the patient. Put yourself on the same level as the patient so go get a visitor chair and sit down. Don't sit on the patient's bed. When asking for the name of the patient always ask them how would they like to be addressed. Some of the more elderly patients usually would like to be addressed as Mr/Mrs, etc. Smile when you talk to the patient and just act professionally. When you leave - make sure you take your chair with you and put things back where you found them. I personally like to ask the patient if there's anything they would like me to get/do for them. It's the little things that makes a difference. Usually their tables are too far away or they need something to drink. If they want something to drink, make sure you ask a nurse first before fetching something just in case.

Finally - the most daunting bit: interacting with the consultant. Some like to make your life very difficult. I like to think it is because the consultant didn't want students and was forced to have them...or he/she is overly bored. My good friend said dealing with consultants is a skill on its own. I like to give myself 2 weeks to get a feel of what the consultant is like. Is he/she friendly? Is he/she talkative? Is he/she interested in teaching? One way to put yourself in the good books of a consultant is obviously the things I have listed above and just smile and be relaxed. Don't be arrogant. And DO NOT correct a matter how tempting it is a bad idea to correct a person who has been in the job for 20+ years. It is fairly embarrassing to get corrected by a student. Unless the care of the patient is at risk - I usually keep my mouth shut. If there is really any discrepancy - go look it up on the internet/textbook or ask the registrar/SHO. At the end of the day - the consultant is still a person. It's like dealing with teachers back at school. Yes they teach...but they still have a life. No one wants to talk about medicine 24/7. If you manage to figure out that the consultant is fairly relaxed - chat about regular stuff. People always find it amazing that 90% of my conversations with consultants are random banter. Make yourself enjoyable to be around. Put yourself in their shoes. Be considerate.

Anyways basic ward etiquette. Seems like common sense - but you will be surprised how many students forget about these basic things. Assume you are back in school and the medical staff are your teachers. Address them properly. Address the consultant by their last name unless they make it known that they want to be known by their first name. I have yet to call any of my consultants/supervisor by their first name. I tend to address registrars by their first name as that's how they introduce themselves to me. Can't go wrong by being polite and respectful. It is a pain but I think it is fair.

1 comment:

  1. I will keep this post in mind for when I hopefully start clinics in like 3/4 years :p any tips for students who are about to start first year in Sept?