Sunday, September 15, 2013

I'm Baaack!

Shocker - I'm back! Most of you probably thought I fell off the planet or medical school had simply killed me. Actually what had happened is that after my placements in May I had left for my medical elective for 2 months. I went back to Canada to do my medical elective guessed it: Orthopaedics. It was tough - and that's putting it lightly. I have not worked as hard as I had during my medical elective than any of my last 4 years at medical school. So once I got back I was seriously burnt out while my friends were burnt from their lovely sun filled elective in the beautiful/tropic parts of the world such as: Thailand, Vietnam, Fiji...I am feeling my blood pressure go up again. To put it in even more simple terms - I was miserable during my elective and very jealous of my friends who had a tropical and fun-filled elective to discover themselves.

Why was my elective so tough?

Well North American medical school will always have its stereotype to uphold. My mornings started at 6:30 am and my day didn't end until 6pm and that's me sneaking off early. Despite being a visiting elective student I was expected to still do 24 hour on-calls. Yes there were a few days especially in the first 2 weeks where I wanted to go and hide in a corner and cry. I've never been told off so much in medical school as much as I had during my first 4 week rotation. Apologies I have to leave out details as it will make me very easily identifiable if I start specifying EXACTLY what sub-specialty I was doing. I remember telling my parents several times I would quit. I nearly walked out of clinic many times. I walked out of the operating room once after being unfairly treated. This elective definitely pushed my limits to the max. When I reached my 2nd rotation of 4 weeks - I was back in my comfort zone. Let's say the first 4 weeks was a very steep learning curve and one I hope to never go through again. Looking back at it, I'm glad I got my ass-whipped as not only did I never work so hard before, but I have never learnt so much before in such a short amount of time. I had to gain A LOT of self-confidence and was pushed to the deep end of the pool during my elective and I'm glad the consultant pushed me that hard. I would have never learned...but with that, I sacrificed the enjoyment of the elective. I guess it's a fine balance.

When I returned to the UK I was just so burnt out. I didn't get much of a summer holiday. I was back to placements and well let's just say placement seemed extremely SLOW compared to Canada. I had a hard time adjusting back and consultants thought I was overly too proactive. It's a very different system here in the UK. In Canada I felt like I had to fight for my learning opportunities and I learned by falling flat on my face a million times. In the UK, we are spoon-fed our learning opportunities. There isn't a huge competition atmosphere in the UK. I was with other medical students in Canada and I found myself fighting to get to scrub in and fighting to see patients. As a student in the UK I feel like sometimes we take it for granted the amount of learning opportunities we get. Anyways there isn't much to talk about my elective. If I had to sum it up in one sentence it would go like this: Worked my ass off, but came out more mature and wiser and perhaps a hell lot more worn out. To be honest I still don't know what to think of my elective. Don't get me wrong, I was lucky to have got an elective in Canada in a major city in a very popular specialty, so I don't regret it at all.

Hopefully I'll start updating a bit more, however, final exams are coming up so I am a lot busier than usual now. Currently doing my General Practice rotation so who knows maybe I'll find time. Sorry again for the lack of updates...just had a rough few months.


  1. You scared me man. I will do a 4 weeks elective in one of the top universities in Canada.
    I will pack alot of tissue, thank you.

  2. Thank god you've returned.
    Maybe do a post on the differences between the two sorts of medical schools, a lot of people feel like America is where to go for delivering best patient-centred care, rather than the UK's money-saving, NHS saving, whats-best-for-the-department care...

  3. Interesting read. I am thinking of going to US for part of my elective, but from how you have seems real tough!
    Did you get time off at all, to enjoy the city and visit places(part of what I want from my elective!)?

    1. I only got weekends off so I didn't have much of a chance to enjoy the city/visit other than chill out. If you want to have time off to explore, I would arrange that into your elective like take a week off between 2 rotations or something. Don't rely on the attending to have a kind heart to let you off for a few days or something. Some are really chilled and probably will let you off, but with surgery, everyone is just a bit more intense.

  4. I agree with the post asking for a comparison of North American and British med schools! How did you find the standard of care there? Was there all the beaurecracy (can't spell that word!) etc that exists in NHS hospitals? Great to see you're back though, now you've got through that you should be able to take anything on :)

  5. Oops...I meant hospitals...I'm writing this too late!

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  7. Thanks for sharing your experience. I'm considering going to Canada for my electives as well. As an elective student there, will it be more of an observership, clerkship or sub-internship experience?

  8. Hi, thanks for the post, it is an unusual experience. I am studying social science and interested in how medical students (and grown doctors) behave, what patterns do they have and what kind of experience they receive during their career. You blog is fine place to extract some information. Look on maybe you will find
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