Blog: A day in the life of a medic - what is placement really like?

Third-year Medicine student Riona gives us insight into what it's really like to experience a typical day on placement.

Riona Adams Blog


Time to wake up! I have a quick shower and try not to wake up my housemates by stomping around the house. I would usually wear placement clothes – such as black trousers and a nice top (bare below the elbows!) – but the hospital I’m at this rotation gives its students scrubs (comfy). You can get quite a lot of choice with what you wear, as long as you’re presentable. I manage to get a quick breakfast and a cup of tea in before running out of the door with my stethoscope, notebook and laptop in my bag.

This rotation (we have 6 rotations in our phase 3a) I’m on paediatrics, so I need to get an on-call signed off. This involves shadowing the on-call doctor after hours, and since I don’t have a car to get back to Sheffield I’ve chosen to stay overnight at the (free, but you can tell why) hospital accommodation tonight. You only have to do 5 on calls on paeds – I usually finish my placement anytime between 1.00pm and 6.00pm!


I’m getting a lift with another medic on the same placement who lives about 15 minutes away. Sometimes I’ll get the train to placement if I’m the only one going in, but car shares are usually available. We don’t have to go in every day, but I try to so I can see as much as I can. 


We change into scrubs and head into the doctor’s room for the morning handover from the evening shift. It’s interesting to hear about the cases that have come in overnight, and about the patients you know. It includes junior doctors of all stages, consultants, nurses, occupational therapists, pharmacists and lots of students! It can be a bit crammed in the room, so I’ve gone to make a round of tea.


Ward round time! It’s a busy one today – myself, the consultant, an F1, another medical student and the pharmacist. They’ve asked me to write the notes, which is challenging but an essential skill! There are a mix of patients on the ward – some rare illnesses as well as the common ones we’ll need to know in the future. Patients stay on here from a few hours to months, so you can get to know them and their parents/carers well. 


We excuse ourselves from the ward round as we have a teaching session. Today it’s run by a doctor talking about an audit they did looking at the treatment options for constipation. Maybe I shouldn’t have brought my jacket potato for lunch with me. 


I’ve lost my consultant again – I swear she was here a minute ago. They know vanishing tricks. I bug the nurses to sign me off on a couple of clinical skills– feeding and weighing a baby today. There’s a big list of things to do including taking histories and doing examinations and seeing surgeries, but you can get them done bit by bit. I still can’t find my consultant, so I’ve decided to go and revise in the library for a few hours.


I finish up chatting to a patient about their experiences and attend the evening handover. On call starts now. One of my favourite F2s is on call tonight, and she whips out a bag of cookies to share with me.


Throughout the evening I shadow the F2 doing various jobs such as newborn baby checks, taking blood and clerking patients. She supervises me whilst I learn how to do all of these things and gets me really involved! She leaves me clerking for an hour before coming to grab me to see a caesarean section she’s been called to. I saw (and scrubbed up and helped!) some on my obstetrics and gynaecology placement, but it’s interesting seeing it from a paediatrics perspective. I got to see a birth last week too, and check the baby over straight away. 


Night handover. We have a chat about my day and then I head to the accommodation, heat up some leftovers from my dinner last night and crash into bed. It was a long day, but so interesting. We’re so privileged as medical students to be allowed into so many areas of people’s lives that no one else gets to see. I’m looking forward to another unique day tomorrow.

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