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.

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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

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.

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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.

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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 😀 

Tallinn for a weekend, why not?

friends in Old City Tallinn Estonia city hall

Hello from the old city of Tallinn! 😀

I’m a very work hard play hard type of person. I take my work very seriously, and I take my breaks very seriously. So my friends and I wanted to go on a cruise from Stockholm to Tallinn for a weekend, why not?

I left Värnamo Friday morning to get to the ferry in the evening. Yes it takes about 5h to get to Stockholm. Afterwards, my friends and I were on the boat and had an amazing time from beginning to end.

Party. Friends. New friends. Brazilian acrobats. Some Tallinn. Some singing. Party.

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It was an amazing weekend, but now time for my final week in primary care in Värnamo. Here’s for a well-deserved getaway – until next time but for now, time to work hard. Hope you all had an amazing weekend, and have an amazing week ahead!

workworkworkworkworkwork

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