A weekend as a Medic WAG*

The past weekend was spent in Edinburgh doing my best to help my girlfriend get through some of the last days of her degree. Rather than studying a subject of which I have some knowledge (literature, theology, pointless trivia), she is doing medicine. I’m so proud of her and keen to help, so here’s how I lived the life of a Medic WAG…
  • Made meals and cups of tea. And cleared up afterwards.
  • Listened to hopes and fears being expressed whilst knowing there was nothing I could do to truly help. You can try to make life easier but this is the actually the hardest time of their life.
  • Had routine examinations performed on me. These always being with “Hello, I'm a final-year medical student, may I examine your shoulder/knee/whatever is decent?” Apparently I have no interesting issues except slightly dodgy knees.
  • Read or slept as she worked through piles of books full of words that seem made up, wrote hundreds of notes, and completed a portfolio of work on multiple aspects of medicine in readiness to answer questions from an interview panel on some of those cases. This interview is the last exam, the ‘easier’ one.
The scale of what she’s learning is incredible. Medics have to understand how the many systems in the body work, what can cause them to go wrong, how to identify what has gone wrong, and the various ways to make them better (whilst taking into account other presenting and possible issues). And maybe treat the patient as a person.

Seeing a group of final-year Medics together, you can sense how the creeping dread of a life-defining moment besets them all. Mostly they maintain the appearance of cheerful hope that they would encourage in their most troubled patients.

And this is all in the hope of getting a job that is promised to be far harder than anything they've imagined or experienced so far.

You watch, you admire, you pray. And then you make your girlfriend another cup of tea.

For the record, Scrubs is deemed the most accurate TV program about doctors, although ideas on how to speak with patients can be gleaned from ER.

* Apparently HAB is an acceptable variant on WAG, but I think the original is becoming non-gender specific. And it sounds funnier.