5 uniquely British medical practices

I’ll be blunt and admit that I don’t really have a lot of exciting things to tell from the hospital after my placements. I think my placement in medical emergency is a tough one to beat. However recently, I’ve been remembering all these medical practices that was everyday for me in the UK, which now actually seems completely alien to me. I’m converting. There’s a lot that comes to mind, but for starters, here’s a list of five uniquely British medical practices.

1. Clinical wear is basically formal wear

For doctors, clinical wear entails shirt/trousers (NOT JEANS) for men and shirt/blouse/skirt/trousers (again NOT JEANS) for women. Nice flat dress shoes for both genders. Yes, this practice is extremely questionable hygiene-wise, as you come to work with the same clothes you will be wearing the whole day at the hospital, but there is some reasoning behind this.

The medical practice in the UK wanted to take a step away from the hierarchical system by abolishing the white coat and scrubs for doctors. There shouldn’t be anything to distinguish a doctor from a patient appearance-wise, as in the end they’re both people. This is so that there will be no “us and them” mentality between the doctors and the patients, and hopefully, doctors become more approachable during patient contact. It’s a nice thought I guess, and perhaps the prevalence of “white coat syndrome” has diminished over the years. However hygiene-wise once again, questionable.

homer gif giphy saying why so formal lenny you're my go to guy

2. Only black or white shoes are allowed to be worn in the hospital

The professional clinical look in British standards is to be somewhat uniform. Black or white shoes are to be worn as they are more professional. No bright colourful sneakers were allowed. However, I was always jealous of my sister and the bright colourful sneakers she wore around the hospitals in Sweden. So I never listened and decided to rebel and wear my bright orange sneakers. Did I get looks? Yes. Did I get scolded? Sometimes. But boy did I get compliments from patients – “I like your bright orange sneakers, you’re hard to miss in this hospital!” At least I was remembered for my fashion sense.

3. Some doctors wear bow ties or tucked-in ties

As an attempt to improve hospital hygiene, it was implemented that anything hanging around one’s neck is not allowed to be worn in the hospital. Including neck ties. This angered many doctors, as they viewed it to be a crucial part of their professional clinical wear. Therefore they came up with a compromise. Some switched to wearing bow ties, whereas others decided to keep wearing neck ties but started tucking the end of their neck ties inside their shirt. Works I guess.

bow tie from sing movie

4. British hospitals only use black pens

If you look around a British hospital, you will only find black pens and no other colour. I recall being scolded when in the hospital once for taking notes with a blue pen. They told me – how would colour blind people be able to read what I’m writing? I assured them that the notes were only for me to see, and afterwards I had to promise to never use my blue pen again. Since that day, I only brought black pens to the hospital. Yes, it is a rule in British hospitals that you are only allowed to use black pens so that everyone can read what you write, including those who are colour blind.

blue colour blind pen screaming gif giphy

5. You address surgeons as Mr/Mrs/Ms and DEFINITELY not Dr.

“Dr. McCloy… Oh sorry, I mean Mr. McCloy!”

I bet it’s probably only in the UK where some doctors would take offense if you call them Dr. Why you might wonder, which is a pretty good question. As told perfectly in this article, during the origins of surgery around the 18th century, surgeons back then did not possess any formal qualifications let alone a medical degree to be able to hold the title Dr. They were sometimes compared to butchers, and doctors were definitely more superior. However as times have changed, the status of surgeons have risen and thus have become so proud to distinguish themselves from doctors. Today in British hospitals, being called Mr or Mrs/Ms is a badge of honour and could only mean one thing – and that is that you’re a surgeon.
they call me mr tibbs gif giphy

Hello from the Emergency Department

Hi all!

Sorry for the hiatus, but I’m back now after a hectic past few weeks! I completely underestimated the stress of belonging to two classes and being a researcher at the same time. I’ve spent these past two theory weeks basically running back and forth between lectures and classes (internal medicine with semester 8 and orthopaedics with semester 9) and trying to progress with our research. Finally those hectic weeks are over and therefore – hello from the Emergency Department in Jönköping!

I’m on my next final day at the emergency department, and I must say, today has been the least busy day of the week. I define least busy by:

  • having lunch for longer than 15min at around noontime
  • not having to run as fast as I can together with my doctors across the hospital
  • not having to respond to a single cardiac arrest alarm
  • not having to respond to a single stroke alarm
  • only going to the emergency room of the emergency department once

On my first day at the emergency department, there were at least three emergency alarms we had to respond to (meaning a load of running) on top of the regular influx of patients, that we didn’t manage to eat lunch until 5pm. During my second day at the hospital, we were anticipating yet more alarms to go off around the hospital that my doctor was prepared with his scooter outside our room. I of course had to run alongside with him.

Today was a surprisingly calm day, so calm that I didn’t need to run. It was only then when I realised. As I stood in front of our only high-priority (code red) emergency patient of the day, I realised I wasn’t scared anymore. I was looking at an acutely ill and quickly deteriorating patient without being the slightest bit concerned. This has been everyday for us all at the emergency department. It was then I realised, I’ve really been blunted after these past few days. Or perhaps, my trust in the capabilities of medicine and the healthcare workers around to quickly save a life has increased. Perhaps it’s a combination of both.

So, what have I learnt after a few days in the Emergency Department? Saving lives is a very reasonable job description for doctors.

Final day in the medical emergency department tomorrow here we go! 😀

let the doctor do his work maam gif giphy south park emergency room doctors