Education: Transition Year students try out medicine

Ambitious teenagers spend a week playing doctors and nurses at the RCSI

From left Elizabeth Moylan (15) from Manor House, Raheny, Dublin, Lee Sherlock,(16) from Marian College, Ringsend, Dublin and Patrick Murphy (16) from St Benildus College, Kilmacud, Dublin take part in the RCSI Transition Year (TY) MiniMed programme in Beaumont Hospital.

From left Elizabeth Moylan (15) from Manor House, Raheny, Dublin, Lee Sherlock,(16) from Marian College, Ringsend, Dublin and Patrick Murphy (16) from St Benildus College, Kilmacud, Dublin take part in the RCSI Transition Year (TY) MiniMed programme in Beaumont Hospital.

Tue, Jan 28, 2014, 02:00

It’s not for the fainthearted, but hundreds of students applied to take part in a week-long immersion in the life of the medic at Beaumont Hospital last week. They stitched and sutured, took pulses and wrapped plaster casts and, to the relief of the staff at the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI), there were no fainters when the students sat down to watch live surgery.

Sixteen-year-old Saira Munir from Coláiste Mhuire in Ballymote, Co Sligo took it in her stride. “We did a heart dissection in biology class before, so I knew I wouldn’t be squeamish,” she says. “Some people looked uncomfortable but everyone managed to get through it. There were a few people who became faint looking at pictures they saw earlier in the week, though.”

Munir is one of 150 lucky Transition Year students who made it on to this year’s MiniMed programme, run by the RCSI. This is the seventh year of the programme, which gives transition-year students with an interest in medicine the chance to experience the life of a medic, to learn more about the profession and to spend time in a teaching hospital and on campus.

The 150 students, who come from 90 schools around the country, are selected by their career-guidance counsellors. There are many more applications than places, so only those likely to get the most benefit from the programme get a spot.

The week starts with lectures on campus but quickly moves to a hospital setting where the students get some very practical insights into the life of the working doctor and nurse.

Claire Condron is a lecturer in simulation at RCSI and co-ordinator of the MiniMed programme. As she speaks, she’s in her lab coat, fresh from guiding a cluster of teenagers with syringes and rubber arms.

On the Thursday of the programme, students are engaged in a sort of medical speed-dating exercise, where they move from station to station learning different skills. There are seven stations, and over the course of an afternoon they get to try various procedures, from injections and CPR to stitching and inserting nasogastric tubes.

“It’s interesting to see how the students develop over the course of the week,” says Condron. “At the beginning they are shy of their peers and the questions asked are not medical. Two of the most common questions I’m asked are ‘How much does the job pay?’ and ‘What are the hours like?’. However, as the week goes on they tend to get more involved in the real work of the medic. It’s a chance for them to get a handle on what life is like for an RCSI med student. This is important, because many students who get high points in their Leaving Cert go for medicine, and some don’t really have an understanding of what is involved. It’s not just about getting 600 points. They need to know what life will actually be like as a medical student.”

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