Day in the Life of a Medical Student

Every day is a different at the hospital, regardless of whether you’re a medical student or much further along in your career. The day depends on who walks in the door, what they’re story is, what illness or injury they have.  That doesn’t even take into account what specialty rotation you are on (General Medicine/ General surgery/ Neurology/ Trauma/ Plastic Surgery etc), which hospital network you’re placed at… the list goes on. Confusing as it is, I’m hoping this article can provide a little insight into what you have to look forward to!

As a little disclaimer before we get into it, I picked this day to document primarily because it erred more on the side of being exciting and, well, I want you to know how diverse and fun hospital life can be as a medical student. However, my days are by no means always this busy nor lacking to this extent in formal teaching and lectures so please take this example with a grain of salt. This is also a day in my life as a third year, clinical medical student and looks very different to my preclinical years! If you’d like me to write one about a day in the life of a preclinical medical student or even another variation of a clinical day in the life please feel free to leave your request on the iCanMed Facebook page!

Anyway, let’s get into it.

5.30am: ‘BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP’ were you jolted out of your pleasant reverie by that? Because I was. Regardless of whether or not I’ve had my eight hours 5.30 will probably never feel like an appropriate time to be awoken from my slumber.

6.00am: Depart the house. Ward rounds aren’t until seven, but one of the unfortunate realities about hospital placements is that they can really be quite far from where you live.

6.54am: Arrive at the hospital. I’m more asleep than awake, but quickly stop feeling sorry for myself when the interns pointedly inform me they’ve been there for ½ an hour already and I’ll be in their shoes before I know it.

7.00am: Start ward rounds. This is the point in the morning where we visit all the inpatients who the team is responsible for and determine the plan of action for each of them that day. It’s my job to run and grab folders between patients (not that fun, but really wakes you up) and to write the occasional inpatient progress note (somewhat more fun).

9.00am: Radiology meeting. Today’s round was snappy, efficient and there were no new admissions in the emergency department so we arrive on time and get the good seats in the meeting room for once.

10.00am: Mandatory coffee break. A lull in the action of the day means it’s time to refuel with coffee, and have a casual research meeting with my supervisor. 

10.30am: Clinic! Typically one of the better learning opportunities as a medical student, especially on days like today when the opportunity arises for me to see some patients on my own, and hopefully answer some of their questions, before they go on to seeing the doctors.

12.00pm: Lunch. Today I opt for a longer lunch and eat at the park across the street with a friend who is on a different specialty rotation at the moment. We talk about how pathology makes no sense and throw a frisbee for a dog that keeps coming up to play.

12.30pm: Tutorial. This afternoon it’s one on peripheral vascular disease and I can’t say I’m particularly excited about it.  

1.00pm: Surgery! I grab a couple of biscuits as sustenance, attempt to charm the theatre receptionist into lending me a locker key for the afternoon and go down to the operating theatre for the second case on the afternoon list. Today is a simple laparoscopic cholecystectomy, open inguinal hernia repair kind of day.

5.30pm: I run out of steam just about when the operating list ends and it’s time to head home. The bad news is its peak hour traffic, the good news is tomorrow’s a Friday!

6.45pm: HOME. I finally make it back after moving at snail’s pace. Why is it that the traffic always has to be worse on the way back at than the way in?

8.30pm: Independent study. After having dinner and gathering enough strength to get myself off the sofa I want nothing more than to go straight to bed. Alas there is work to be done and I should probably put in at least an hour of study. 

10.30pm Bedtime! I am fully aware of how early 10.30 is for bed, but trial and error has lead me to realize that I will most probably sleep through my alarm if I don’t get my eight hours. 

When I reflect on why I am disproportionately excited by eleven hour days and getting up before the sun, two broad themes come to mind; that I become bored far too easily, and that I love stories. Although the general process of the day may be similar, the patients, their medical issues and the narrative of how they came to end up sitting in front of you in the hospital is ever changing, and often fascinating. As a bonus, the nature of a doctor’s work is always varied, where a more academic approach is required to piece together symptoms and test results to come up with diagnoses and conclusions (as you might do on a ward round, or in clinics) and a task-based approach is more relevant to the hands-on aspects of the job (like putting in IV drips, suturing in ED, or surgery!). Hence medicine offers me variety to combat boredom and constant contact with people who will kindly tell me their stories.

I subject myself to being a cliché by saying this, I know, but I really do feel privileged to live out a day-to-day routine that I genuinely enjoy. Even more so, I’m privileged that I’m able to say with confidence that I’m working towards a job I know I will love!

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