Last Monday I went on my first placement. It was at a GP's surgery, which just happened to be where I did some work experience about 5 years ago when I was first applying to medical school, so I already knew a few of the staff and how the practice works. From start to finish I just had the best time. From looking at it, I didn't get to do anything terribly exciting really, I just sat on a chair in the corner of the room and watched the consultations and spoke with the nurse or Dr about them afterwards, but from the grin that was on my face for the rest of the day you'd have thought I single-handedly diagnosed all the patients myself.
Firstly, I was introduced to all the patients as a student doctor, which actually made my day :) I got to see a wide range of patients including knee pains, IVF requests, 12 month immunisations and cervical smears. One of my two most memorable moments was sitting watching this lady ask for a referral to an IVF clinic as she had suffered 19 miscarriages and buried two children born prematurely, which was heartbreaking to hear about. There's no way I would be strong enough to put myself through that, she was such an amazing lady.
The other moment was when I was observing a cervical smear from the other side of the room to give the lady some privacy, and the nurse some room because the table was sort of squished in an alcove. The nurse asked permission if I could have a closer look, the lady consented and I bounded across the room - you have never seen a bean move so fast. I had a peer, saw the cervix, and then had a moment of realisation that I knew absolutely nothing, and here was this lady letting me peer at her privates as she is having an uncomfortable procedure and in possibly one of the most undignified positions you can be in. It was really useful for me to see because it tied in nicely with the case unit we'd just been doing, so now I've seen it in books and real life but once she was dressed I made sure to thank her properly for giving consent. It seemed the least I could do. It might only have been a simple thing for her to do - to say yes - as I guess she was already embarrassed enough anyway, so having one more person looking probably couldn't add to that feeling, but it was incredibly useful for me.
The reverence required to be around patients when dealing with sensitive matters soon left our class however, as later on in the week we were doing genital exam on rubber manikins in clinical skills. There were several incidents, including one person managing to fire the glans head of the penis across the room while trying to milk out any discharge, and the facilitator casually reminding us to be careful of where we put our thumbs. We were all so intent on getting our fingers deep enough to feel the ovaries, we all had our thumbs firmly jammed on the clitoris. Ooops. Oh well, I guess clinical skills is the place to make these kinds of mistakes :)
We were told you can laugh as much as you like now, just make sure when you do it for real you aren't partnered with the same people, otherwise you'll make eye contact, remember this day and dissolve into fits of giggles.