The department has been privileged to host numerous visiting fellows over the past years.
Undergraduate students are also encouraged to do their elective in Paediatric surgery
Whenever I am asked what I am studying, the follow up question is always what field I am going to, in the future, specialise in. My response has always been the same since first year, a paediatric surgeon. This fascination of surgery coupled with my love of children lead to my choice of doing my elective in the Paediatric Surgery department at Chris Hani Baragwaneth Hospital, under the paediatric team headed by Professor Loveland.
It was a daunting challenge, arriving at the hospital with very little experience in anything to do with paediatrics let alone surgery. However, I was met by professionals who were eager to teach and took time out of an extremely busy day to show me the life of a paediatric surgeon. Before I started my elective, I had a misconception that surgery was really all that a paediatric surgeon did but this idea was quickly shown to be false. Sessions in the paediatric clinic were done multiple times during the week and monitoring children in the wards was continuous. Being able to witness this broadened my knowledge of what my future could hold.
I was fortunate enough that a couple of the doctors asked me to assist in surgery. My role was minor but so exciting and I felt such accomplishment having known that I was part of helping make that child’s life better. It was probably the first time in my student career where I could put my clinical knowledge into clinical practice. I assisted in the removal of an inguinal lymph node for biopsy, as well as the removal of an inguinal hernia. On top of these I witnessed countless operations and saw a new procedure each time. I realised how many things can go wrong through the development of a foetus or child but how many interventions have now become available.
The clinic was always bustling and the doctors were always busy, however, yet again, they made the effort to include me and share some of their knowledge. I was shown how to do certain examinations on the children and enjoyed even the little things. Every day brought with it new experiences and even over two weeks, I never found myself bored.
Within the wards, I saw the side of medicine that is not often seen during the academic year. I interacted with the family and had longitudinal exposure with them and the patients. This aspect allowed me to see the progression of the patient and not just the surgery. I could actually witness a patient get better and see the outcome of the work that, hopefully, one day I will be able to do.
I was often approached by family members during ward rounds, where they would enquire about their child’s disease. I was not equipped nor was it appropriate for me to answer their medical problems but they continued to discuss their concerns. Interacting with the families highlighted the burden it is to have a child in hospital, especially those with a low socioeconomic background; Not only the emotional stress but also the worry of having to take time off and losing income. This was an eye opener to me.
Most days I was there from 7:30 in the morning until late afternoon. It was exhausting and made me worry how it would ever be possible for me to become a doctor, let alone be capable to specialise. I expressed some of my concerns to the doctors I was shadowing, who responded with sound words of advice. All the doctors made me feel more optimistic that it is not as difficult as it looks and when you are actually in the situation you cope much better.
I was asked twice, to do a presentation about certain conditions that I had no knowledge about. I was extremely anxious to present these to people a lot more senior than me. However, all the doctors made me feel comfortable to share the information I had acquired. The questions that my presentation generated were directed in such a way, that I was made to extrapolate the answers. This encouraged me, as I could link my knowledge to the pathology that I would see. Therefore, even though I was very nervous, retrospectively, I believe it was beneficial and allowed me to gain experience in all realms of being a doctor.
My expectation of this elective was met and exceeded. Through my third year of medicine, I was often left unfulfilled and let down by my experiences in hospital and was concerned the elective would be no different. It gave me the true experience of what being a doctor may be like. It was truly a privilege to be supervised by such incredible doctors. I will be eternally grateful.