Saturday, March 9, 2013

My Audit Project: Start to Finish.

May 2012 - I started on my first audit project which was in Orthopaedics. I technically started planning this audit project with my supervisor back in January 2012. When we first discussed this project, the project was just intended to be a good learning experience for me and I pretty much saw it as something to keep me occupied during my Orthopaedics placement. I don't think any of us really thought of going far with this project. It was essentially a "we'll see how it goes" kind of thing. Admittedly, I didn't take the project that seriously either. I spent maybe an hour here and there in medical records. Our sample group size wasn't very big either so I wasn't exactly pressured to spend hours and hours to collect all the data. To be fair the audit project took about 3 weeks to complete (as in gather all the data, come up with numbers, and type up a rough report to hand in). As you can probably see now, I didn't take it very seriously. As I started getting results and numbers from the audit, my supervisor began encouraging me to think about submitting it to national/international conferences as he believes people might be interested in our results. I remember actually laughing off what he said and told myself: "That'll be the day!". Eventually he started to sound a lot more serious about it and continuously encouraged me to submit an abstract to conferences.

Because I had typed up a report (albeit quite roughly), I at least have a base for an abstract. An abstract is essentially a 250-300 word summary of your project. It would include an introduction, aim, methods, results, and a conclusion. I took a sentence or two from each of my sections in my report and put them together and there we go: I've got my 250-300 word abstract ready for submission. I submitted an abstract to 1 national and 1 international conference. As I submitted it, I still told myself: "Why would anyone want to select MY project? It'll be a joke." 3 months after submitting my abstract, I heard back from the conferences. I was accepted to do a poster presentation at a pretty "prestigious" (apparently) national conference. I couldn't believe it. I was over the moon. I mean I never expected to get anything from this project. Like I earlier said, it was a bit of a "keep me busy" project that I didn't take seriously. You can imagine I wasn't very confident about it and really truly didn't think I'll get anything from it. I even told my supervisor in the unlikely event of me getting anything out of this project, it will be a massive bonus. I heard back about the national presentation in December 2012 and in about 2 months I had to churn out a poster. Where do I even start?!

I have never done a poster before. I mean I presented my project a few months earlier at a local audit meeting so I had a powerpoint presentation of my poster, but not an actual POSTER. I asked around and was given a template. To be honest, I was still very lost. Because it was my holiday when I had to work on my poster, I pretty much sat myself down in front of my computer and spent the whole day making the poster. I used powerpoint to make the poster and after many hours of continuous work, I had my first draft for my poster. I remember sitting back and looking at my computer screen with a large grin. I can finally see my project "come to life". All that work, I can finally see it. After many drafts and sending my drafts to my supervisor, I believe I had my final draft. 2 weeks before my conference, I made some last minute changes to the images and minor adjustments and sent it for printing.

"Your poster is ready to pick up." - the graphics team had called. It was my day off and I quickly rushed out to go see my poster. When I saw the poster I just could not believe it. My work in true physical form. I obviously took a minute to be a bit of a narcissist and admire my work. I couldn't help but feel a sense of pride and joy. Just looking back at the long journey, I just could not believe it.

Then it was time to go to the 3 day conference. Poster rolled up and secured in a tube. No one has seen it other than me so my supervisor and other surgeons who helped haven't seen it. We all met up and went to the venue to register and put up the poster. Just walking into the venue and seeing everyone there (250+ people) and 95% of them were Registrars or Consultants in Orthopaedics, it was actually quite intimidating. It didn't help that I looked BY FAR the youngest in the meeting and 1 of the handful of women there as obviously Orthopaedics is quite male dominated. When I took the poster out to put up, while my supervisor and other doctors stood around, it was nice to see my name as the first author and the title of my project standing out among the other posters in the hall. I got a pat on the back and was congratulated. It has finally happened. My first national poster presentation. Throughout the day I was introduced to many consultants from around England and met some pretty famous ones who I have only heard about. It was such a great and new experience. When it was finally time to leave, I left my poster with my supervisor.

A few days ago I received an email from admin in Orthopaedics saying that I should go visit the Orthopaedics Department. I kind of dismissed it and didn't pop around until yesterday. As I walked down the hall in the department, there it was - my poster. It was displayed up on the wall, which registrars and consultants like to call: "The Hall of Fame". I stopped in front of my poster to be a bit of a narcissist again and admire my work.  

What this project has taught me is that if you work hard, "the sky's the limit". The opportunities are infinite - you just need to go look for it and grasp onto it when it passes by.

So what's next for me? Because my project was a lot more successful than we all thought, I am now hoping to submit a more polished report for publication. I mean these projects are quite fun, and a good experience so I am in the midst of planning with another consultant to do another project with a much larger sample group and on a different topic. After going to the conference, I am very motivated to keep doing projects and working hard. Who knows where my projects will take me next? America? Canada? Asia?

"The sky's the limit."


  1. Congratulations on your achievements - it all sounds really exciting!

    If you wouldn't mind, could you explain what an audit is exactly? The only knowledge my first-year brain has of it is that it is sort of an analysis of a department/GP looking at the patient's treatment and their outcome (but I am probably wrong). Also about the poster presentations, there was actually a pretty helpful article in the StudentBMJ a while ago about them - your 'Hall of Fame' worthy poster should probably have been used as an example!

    1. An audit is what you say it is. It is analysing the department focussing on a specific point such as outcomes. You can do simple ones such as auditing a department on hand washing before seeing a patient. This will bring up numbers and you can then implement a plan to increase hand washing before seeing every patient. Every audit has a question and it can really be anything. You can look at how well X treatment does for 50+ year old patients admitted for X condition. There is no limit to what you ask but you have to think about how big of a project it'll be and if it is a question many people would like to know the answer to.

      Hope that helps!

    2. Thanks for the helpful answer :)

  2. Congrats! Just out of interest what's your audit about?

    I was thinking of doing one too but I wanted to make sure it would be something I wanted to do. Is orthopedics your area of interest then?

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