On the Healthcare Science degree, most days in university are just normal lectures. Well…as normal as they get for us. Most of my housemates still can’t get their heads around the fact that I know everyone on my course and that we can easily organise a Christmas jumper day whenever we want to (it has been known to happen)!
And we don’t really have such a set schedule; often we turn up in the morning knowing roughly what we’ll learn and see how long the lectures go on for! Sometimes we get the chance to do something a little bit special, and I’ll tell you about a couple of those days now.
Before Christmas, we did quite a bit of preparation for our next placement, and this included our ‘Working Department Day’. Some of our lecturers organised a day where, as the name suggests, we took charge of our own pretend Cardiac Physiology department. Three ‘actors’ (student nurses) were brought in to act out various scenarios and we had to complete a variety of tests including basic ECGs and blood pressures, ambulatory ECG and BP application, and 24 hour ECG analysis.
Doctors, morgues and French translation
One of the first challenges of the day was making our own rota, including breaks, but made even harder because our first ‘patient’ walked through the door soon after we started. We’ve definitely learnt that people are very protective of their lunch breaks, a habit that might have to be broken in a real department, as myself and another student found out when we lost half our break due to a fainting patient.
Anyway the scenarios ranged from patients that were very cooperative to one who only spoke French. All any of us could remember was very basic GCSE French. If you want a laugh try translating or miming ‘we are going to put electrodes on your chest and then measure the electrical activity of your heart’ under pressure!
We even had two ‘cardiac arrests’ where we had to start CPR on a dummy and see if they pulled through. One didn’t and I had to communicate with a worker from the morgue about the death, and dissuade a bereaved relative from following the body down to the morgue, something that I definitely didn’t expect. But a lot was learnt about patient communication in difficult and emotional circumstances, something that we hadn’t really been exposed to during our first placement but, no doubt, something that could very well occur in our careers.
We even had lecturers getting in on the acting fun. I had one of my cardiac physiology lecturers come in and role-play a doctor demanding to know where the ECG reports were. Another lecturer came in as a student nurse and asked for some tutoring on ECG analysis; one of the boys ended up leading a little ECG teaching session.
Placement prep continued after Christmas, as did the growing mountain of coursework and exam revision that needs to be finished. We can now do ambulatory ECGs and blood pressures, as well as exercise treadmill tests and ECG analysis, in preparation for doing these on placement and being assessed. We had another practice placement session where we turned up in uniform, carried out tests and acted out scenarios. But for this one we got cupcakes and tea so it was a little more laid back!
My first post-mortem observation and falling asleep on the bus home
In the past couple of weeks, I’ve also had the opportunity to visit the mortuary and observe a post-mortem. This was an amazing opportunity to observe the anatomy and physiology of the body, particularly the heart, lungs and vasculature.
The patient in this case had suffered an abdominal aortic aneurysm, with a number of other cardiac and respiratory pathologies linking into the case. Whilst it was an interesting chance to visualise the body in a way we haven’t been able to previously, it was also a very humbling experience and helped to re-focus our minds on why we are working at our coursework and exams, and the ultimate goal of being qualified practitioners.
So these kind of unusual days definitely break up the normal lectures that we have throughout the year. They are exhausting! We’re often falling asleep on the bus home but they’re so worth it, and we all have great fun and look forward to more practical activities.
The next month for me includes two weeks of an Inter Professional Learning Unit (IPLU), a module where all the healthcare students (nurses, medics, physios and many others) from Southampton and Portsmouth universities come together and carry out an audit on a ward or service in an actual hospital. Then it’s two weeks of study before my exam week so I’ll see you on the other side of that!