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

Life lessons from a patient who survived 

(Disclaimer: I received verbal consent from my patient to share about my experience with him.)

Last week, I wrote about a patient of mine who almost died… twice. And I was there with him. I have been visiting him regularly and I am happy to announce that he is now stable. After a month of not seeing his wife, he is now at home with her. 🙂

The weekend before his final operation, I visited him the Friday before I went off to Stockholm. I told him I was going home to sing. He told me that he wishes he could hear me sing sometime. He told me he enjoyed jazz, and so I decided to learn “Fly me to the moon” by Frank Sinatra to perform it the same evening. I showed him the video the coming Monday and was happy to see him smile, laugh and slightly calmer before his upcoming operation. However as he was still nervous, I decided to follow and observe his operation, so I could be there with him as he lay there during his awake surgery. He was grateful.

 

Right before he went home, I visited him for one final time. As usual, laughter and words of wisdom were exchanged. Before saying goodbye, he asked for my name on a piece of paper so he would remember me. I wrote my name down and handed it to him as I told him his full name. I will never forget you either I said.

So to remember him not as a patient but as a person, here are a few wise words from him that I know I will bring along with me throughout the rest of my life. Things I learnt that is not because he was a patient, but because he’s a person caring for another. Note, most advice were aimed at my lovelife…

1.

Gör något som du brinner för. Om du inte brinner för det, sluta. Annars kommer du inte göra bra ifrån dig.

“Do something you’re passionate about. If you’re not passionate about something, stop. Otherwise, you won’t excel.”

2.

När du träffar någon ska det gå långsamt, så att du hinner se både fördelarna och nackdelarna av en person och kan göra ett bra beslut

“When you meet someone, take it slowly so you have time to see both the pros and cons of the person to make a good decision”

3.

När du är i ett förhållande är det DU som ska bestämma, så att allt går som du vill att det ska gå och du blir glad

“When you are in a relationship, it is YOU who should decide, so that everything will be how you want it to be and you will be happy”

4.

Gör alltid tid åt din familj, i slutändan är det de som alltid kommer finnas där för en

“Always make time for your family, because in the end they will be the ones who will always be there for you”

5. And last but not least my absolute favourite… (I hope you guys understand I’m always laughing each time he gives me advice on my lovelife)

Om han inte kommer eller gör någonting för din skull så är han inget att ha

“If he doesn’t attend or do anything for you then he’s no one for you to have”

Oh dear patient of mine, I hope you are enjoying your time drinking red wine with your wife at home. I will never forget you!

In the end though, what did I really learn? Medicine goes a long way, but empathy goes even further.

 

What do you tell someone who’s about to die?

(Disclaimer: I received verbal consent from my patient to share about my experience with him.)

This week I’ve been at the Cardiac Intensive Care Unit, and nothing has challenged me more physically, mentally and emotionally during a placement.

At the Cardiac Intensive Care Unit, many patients come in after suffering heart attacks. They are in critical need of care, where many patients are vulnerable and are fighting to stay alive… and the healthcare team fighting to keep them alive.

The week began quite calmly, which gave me lots of reading time, but since yesterday and especially today, I’ve been running.

Running. Trying to learn and help out during critical situations, but mainly trying to keep out of the way. Running to wherever the alarm rings. Another patient is dying. Every second counts.

Yesterday, in the midst of a flurry of doctors and nurses trying to save another patient from a cardiac arrest, everyone leaves the room to discuss. At this point, several life-saving electric shocks had been given, and I was there to witness them all. Even seeing the patient in pain.

I tried fighting my tears as I realise, I don’t like seeing patients in pain. And I really wish I don’t ever have to. But there I was.

I was left alone in the room with the patient and I take their hand to comfort them. The patient then looks at me straight in the eyes and tells me:

Jag kommer nu.” – “I’m coming now.”

Coming. Coming to a place beyond us. Coming to death. Coming to what I like to believe, life after death. Coming to Heaven.

I was silent, again fighting my tears. I look straight back not knowing what to say. What do you tell someone who knows they’re about to die, and you know it too? What do you tell someone who’s about to die?

*

This question wracked my brain until the next day. Could I have said anything to improve the situation? What if that really was the last chance I got to talk to them? What if I was the last person they spoke to, and I couldn’t even say a word?

Fortunately, this story has a happy ending. After a rough night and morning of more emergency interventions, the patient is alive and recovering. I finished my day early and decided to pass by the patient’s room to talk to them. It didn’t really feel right for me to leave for the weekend, not knowing whether they will be okay or not when I return. I waited for their room to be free, came in, and in the end I stayed for over an hour chatting. At the end of it they took my hand and told me:

“You have an important duty to pass on your genes to the next generation and I hope you have many children… but be careful with your choice!”

I promised I will, and in return I made them promise they will be around when I come back after the weekend.

As a medical student, I usually joke that another day at the hospital is another life saved, but now I realised this is not a joke at all. As healthcare workers, we are given the unique opportunity to make great changes in people’s lives, and sometimes even save a life. However at times, we are also there as they take their last breath. Being prepared for both scenarios would make the best impact on people’s lives and today, I realised I still have a lot left to learn.

heart ECG tracing recording

 

New apartment and my friends’ engagement

After so many months, my apartment is finally finished. Fully furnished, with a table and chairs even! I can finally eat on a table.

For the first time, I finally have a place in Linköping I can call mine. My home. In my past years in the UK, I have always lived in student accommodations, in dorms etc., but now I have my own apartment!

In my religion (I’m Catholic), when one gets a new house, it needs to be blessed as a part of a house warming. As my friend hadn’t gotten her apartment blessed since moving in, we decided to have a dual house blessing together. We only live a few minutes away from each other anyway. We invited our closest friends from church, as well as two priests from our parish. Believe it or not, but we were over ten people in my tiny apartment.

At the end of the house blessing, as we were singing, eating and being merry in general, I hear my friend joke about when my friend (who I had the dual house blessing with) and her boyfriend would get married. Then I hear my friend (the boyfriend) say: “Speaking of rings…” as he took out a ring from his pocket.

WHAT IS GOING ON I THOUGHT.

I thought he was joking. But then he bent down on one knee, and asked my friend to marry her. And she said yes.

As both my home and their love was celebrated and blessed in my apartment, I don’t think I could’ve had a more perfect house blessing.

Congratulations Emelie and Mikael, we love you!!! ❤ ❤ ❤

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The future newlyweds. ❤

On being a young researcher

Since the age of 16, I have known my way around a research lab and understand research jargon. I have familiarised myself with the research life, where everything you do is highly dependent on your cells (your babies) and the experiments you do with them. You never leave your experiment without a timer and when it rings, RUN. Otherwise that experiment you’ve paid thousands for and have been working on for the entire week would’ve been all for nothing. Or when you successfully get your results and realise that you’ve contaminated the sample?… There can be no greater research pain. It’s happened to all of us, and I know that you who are reading this who have done research before can relate.

Call me doctor Sam first lab internship as a 16-year old at Stockholm University

Self-proclaimed nerd since 2010, at my first lab internship as a 16-year old at Stockholm University

However there is one thing that has been harder to get used to. In every research group I have been in, I have always been the youngest.

As a high school student and later medical student in my early years, it was hard for me to enter a group of people who were in average normally 10 years older. All incredibly intelligent, talented and experienced, not only in what they were working with but in life too. They were in much different stages in their lives than I was. Married with their own families, sometimes with children my age. They had their lives established already with fancy titles beside their names…. and I was always just Sam.

 

I often felt lonely. How could I relate to these people? These people who are all so amazing, how could I match with them? I always looked up to them, and was often intimidated. Would I even be able to say anything smart and mature for them to see me as a peer? I didn’t want to risk it, so most of the time I just sat quietly and did my work until the day was over. Until now.

Since February, I have belonged to a research group in Linköping University working on colorectal cancer. Two days ago, I have finally signed my contract as a Research Engineer for the university. In my research group, I’m the only one without a Dr. title in front of my name – where all are medical doctors with years of experience (doctors/surgeons with MDPhDs mainly) except for my project partner who’s a postdoc from medical sciences, which is why they paired me with him. Two days ago, I found out that he has photographic (eidetic) memory.

 

Yes, I have asked myself several times – what am I doing here. If there is one group that I should feel most intimidated by, it would be this one. But rather, I could have never asked for a better group to work in. Despite being the least qualified in the group, somehow, I still feel that I belong. It was only in this group where I realised that if amazing, talented colleagues of mine see me as a peer and believe that I can contribute and belong to the group, I should believe so too.

Being surrounded by intelligent people on an everyday basis is definitely a humbling experience. Like before, I still often feel small, but now instead of questioning my own abilities, I ask my colleagues about theirs. I am given the unique opportunity to learn from the best, for me to improve my own abilities. I get inspired to dare to dream for my own ambitions, from those who already are exceeding theirs.

I have been blessed with amazing colleagues who I am looking forward to working with for the year(s) to come. They taught me that having big crazy dreams is good, because they do too. So together we dream and work for something as crazy as even finding the cure for cancer. Who knows, maybe someday we will!

dinner in 1853 eating italian food like pizza in linköping with my research lab colleagues

Introducing my research group from our dinner at 1853 in Linköping! Dr. everyone but me 😀 

TRAVEL VLOG: World Youth Day 2016 in Krakow

Indescribable but definitely unforgettable. Who knew I’d be missing the crammed trains with singing French youth, the long queues to eat and the long walks in the sun/rain with millions of other pilgrims from around the world. Exhausted physically and mentally, but it was worth every moment of it. Yes, I’m definitely still experiencing the “World Youth Day hangover.” I wish you all were with me to share the same experiences I had in Krakow, but I’m hoping that you all can get a glimpse at least through this video 🙂 

See you in Panama in 2019! 😀

Footage, background music and editing by me.

Well look at me – I’m 23!

Life is too short to not celebrate birthdays. Even such a meaningless number like 23. Or well, now I can get inside Ugglan, woo! 😛

 

As I rarely am in Stockholm/Sweden during my birthday as it’s in the summer, I usually celebrate my birthday abroad. However as my sister is turning the big number 25 on the 21st, we decided to celebrate it properly. So I decided to only have a short stay in the Philippines so I can be there for my sister. As I’d be here for my birthday, why not celebrate it?

Last time I celebrated my birthday was when I turned 18 five years ago. It was about time.

I had planned a pub crawl around my favourite themed bars in Stockholm. A friend from St Andrews had come all the way from the UK to visit, and my two little sisters from Linköping had come to celebrate as well so I wanted to make the night out more interesting. Despite having planned everything with a pub crawl app and all, in the end we only managed to go to one bar… the Vampire Lounge. At least we managed to go out anyway – E for effort! We later ended the night at one of my favourite clubs Hornhuset and headed home.

After celebrating my birthday with my close friends, I felt blessed and grateful for the wonderful people I have around me. Friends who have stuck with me through the years and friends who I still maintain close with no matter the distance. I have definitely hit it big these past 23 years. I will cherish these friends I have, and hope to celebrate even more birthdays with them in the future.

Thank you life for being good to me, despite all the ups and downs. You have made one happy girl nevertheless! Until the next birthday ❤

The news of Brexit is finally hitting me

Yesterday, my newsfeed was filled with news of my friends’ graduations from St Andrews (it’s graduation week over there), midsummer photos from my friends in Sweden and lastly of course, the EU referendum results. What was supposed to be a happy day, was tainted with sadness with the news of the UK leaving the EU.
 
I must admit however, my initial reaction to the results was a somewhat relief, as it further affirmed my decision of leaving the UK. But with the news following the result like the resignation of David Cameron and the crash of the pound, I cannot help but worry about the unpredictable future of the UK. However now that the results are set, we can only hope that the political leaders will steer this result into a mutual positive outcome for both the UK and the EU.
 
Two years ago, I graduated from the most amazing university in the world: the University of St Andrews, Scotland. St Andrews was a university filled with tradition and world-class teaching, attracting students from all over the world. From my time there, I believed that the UK was a welcoming country of opportunity, which valued ambition and talent. Please, let the future international students like myself and other professionals feel as welcome as I did. Please, don’t change 💔
me on my graduation day with a BSc Medicine (Hons) from the School of medicine in St Andrews Scotland

Me on my graduation day with a BSc Medicine (Hons) from the School of Medicine in St Andrews, Scotland

 

 

UK, you will be missed in the EU

Around this time year, I made the bold decision to leave my future in the UK, after four years of medical school there. While most who didn’t know the real story behind it (that’s a story for another day) told me this was a bad decision, I somehow knew my future was elsewhere. A few months later, my newsfeed was flooded with news of my friends on strike for better conditions for Junior Doctors. Today, the UK has now voted to leave the EU. 

If I had stayed, I would’ve had worse conditions as a newly graduate doctor than if I had worked in Sweden. However after today’s events, I wouldn’t even be able to work as a doctor in Sweden with a British medical degree. 

Earlier this week, I overcame my fear of officially leaving Manchester University (I’m currently on leave) and began the process of withdrawing my enrolment. Sure, I had to undergo a traumatic year to make me finally leave the UK, but somehow I feel that that was the universe/God’s way of directing me to where I’m supposed to go. If I had stayed, what would have I done now? 

To all my friends (especially those from the EU) in the UK, I hope the decision of the UK leaving the EU doesn’t affect your future plans in any way. UK, I wish you all the best in standing on your own two feet. Thank you for giving me a free BSc Medicine (Hons) from St Andrews when I could.

Why (original song)

It’s been a while since I wrote a song, blame it on being busy with adjusting to my new life in Linköping (loving it though!). I also haven’t had anything I’ve cared so much about to be inspired to write a so until now. Make it the first that’s not about a boy not anyone I know 😛

In a way, somehow something feels wrong. Today, I’m celebrating my friends’ love for one another during their wedding. In other parts of the world, people die for not being in love with the “right” people. Tomorrow, I’m going to travel across continents for vacation. Others travel across continents fleeing for their lives, only to be told to return on arrival.

As a response to current events such as the Orlando shooting, the sudden rise of xenophobia and the crisis in Syria to name a few, I was finally able to put my thoughts into words through this song. Sometimes we take for granted what we have and forget that we are actually the minority in the world. Others can only dream of having lives like ours. But it shouldn’t be the case. I guess we can only keep dreaming of a better tomorrow, but for it to be a reality, we must begin with ourselves ❤️

Why

Am F C G

Verse 1:
Another headline, another day
Where it says
People dead and numbers rising

When did it become okay
To say
You’re not welcome gates are closing

Pre-chorus 1:
I see the banners hanging high, telling stories that don’t lie
Can’t we see, can’t we see
I hear the people screaming loud, all together in a crowd
They all sing, they all sing

Chorus:
Why can’t we love? 2x
Why can we live? 2x
In peace

Verse 2:
When I look back to this day, would I say
I’m not the reason this is happening
But don’t we have a part to play? A price to pay?
We are happy, they are suffering

Pre-chorus 2:
When did freedom have a price?
When did living not suffice?
To be free, to be free

When did love become a fight?
When did people lose their right?
To love, to love

Chorus 3x