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Intended for healthcare professionals

Student

January top picks: loving medicine

ݮƵ 2024; 384 doi: (Published 31 January 2024) Cite this as: ݮƵ 2024;384:q214
  1. É Lynn, ݮƵ editorial scholar

My relationship with medicine is perhaps more like that of the old married couple than the honeymoon phase. And as with some long term marriages, I would call it turbulent. It is said, however, that the course of true love never did run smooth, and so the first episode of Sharp Scratch in 2024, was a fitting tribute to our stormy history.

Cautious of appearing saccharine and out of touch, and as our profession braced itself for its 10th month of strikes, I was both intrigued and intimidated about discussing this intimate relationship. Yet the truth is that for better or for worse I still love medicine. I love being trusted with people’s stories and I love the breadth of the study of medicine—and it seems that our panel agrees: it might not be a perfect profession, but it is brilliant.

One of the most charming parts of medicine is the sharing of stories, both with patients and with colleagues. Jessica Sinyor delved into the former, sharing the stories of some fictional patients through her article “The original empathy machine: Five books to illuminate the patient experience.” Despite being a keen reader anyway, I aim to read more in 2024. I have already bought one of Jessica’s recommendations, Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout. In Jessica’s words, the book is a series of related stories pertaining to the eponymous protagonist, “addressing themes including addiction, disordered eating, abortion, and terminal illness.” Olive’s desires remain consistent throughout the decades—the need for connection and to stave off loneliness. Jessica’s article focuses less on the clinical medicine of our textbooks and recommended reading lists and more on the people we call patients. The result has been (for me at least) an expansion of my “to read” list that is as good for the soul as it is bad for the bank balance.

Across The ݮƵ, an opinion piece from Louise Smith placed our focus firmly on the real people we call patients, “Cultivating curiosity about our patients can make all the difference to their care” she says, sharing a personal anecdote of a nurse who took the time to consider her dying mother’s story, even when her mother could no longer tell it herself. The piece should encourage us to be curious about our patients and their lives outside of hospital. I hope to put such care into practice and to be lucky enough to be cared for so thoughtfully should the need arise.

This month, medical students Hannah Calvelli and Olivia Duffield, together with their professor Brian Tuohy, argue that the key to this same compassion being offered to those in prisons lies with medical education. In an opinion piece, they suggest teaching students about the realities of prison healthcare can help to improve outcomes for this especially vulnerable group of patients.

Our most recent episode of Sharp Scratch, stressed the importance of our relationships with colleagues. The team we are in can influence our perceptions of entire hospitals or even entire specialties, and guided by the expertise of Michael West, professor of organisational psychology at Lancaster University, we found out what it is that makes a healthcare team good, and why good teams are so important for patients, as well as for ourselves.

The newest members of healthcare teams, medical doctor degree apprentices, are due to arrive this September. This month I wrote about everything we already know about this new way of becoming a doctor, and what remains unknown. Although doctors worry about their capacity to educate medical students and anticipate increasing student numbers with trepidation, one medical school shared its plans with The ݮƵ for the academic year ahead. What do you make of the new medical doctor degree apprenticeships? If you could go back and study in that way, would you?

These existential changes to medical education may seem beyond our control, but this month Eric Wahlstedt and Margaux Danby argued that we can exert influence at medical school on a more practical level through taking part in curriculum committees. In many ways, medical students are our own best advocates. We offer a unique perspective and a voice otherwise unheard by a faculty’s decision making body.

Perhaps we care because we love—or could the opposite be true? If you care enough to enact change in your own medical school, through sitting on a curriculum committee or through teaching more junior medical students even when you don’t have the time, it might just be love.

Footnotes

  • Competing interests: EL is a medical student enrolled at Lancaster University 2019-26.