As I sat one night last October, celebrating my birthday with friends, a ping came from my laptop – 1 new email, the contents of which confirmed that having studied towards my Applied Biomedical Science Degree for almost three years, I was one of around twenty students who had been awarded a placement opportunity within the NHS. I was to spend fifteen weeks within the Microbiology Laboratory at DGRI. Although excited at the prospect of gaining valuable experience within a medical laboratory, I was terrified at the thought of actually handling real patient samples. It turned out I really had no need to worry, as when I started in January I was introduced to a great team of friendly, helpful people who were all very patient and willing to support me.
During my time on placement, I was able to learn a great deal about the application of clinical microbiology. I was involved in screening urine samples for signs of infection, isolating bacteria from positive blood cultures, identifying positive MRSA patients and determining some common causes of gastrointestinal upsets. I gained a vast amount of knowledge on many common pathogens and their clinical impact. I was given an introduction to antibiotics and how to determine which organisms will respond to which treatments. In addition, I was lucky enough to be given the opportunity to visit a number of other departments within the hospital, including the Infection Control Team, other diagnostic services such as Biochemistry, Pathology and Haematology as well as many of the wards including the Neonatal Suite, ICU and the Alexandra Unit.
Such an overview of these different areas and the responsibilities of each member of staff I met really helped my understanding of many hospital services and helped me realise the true importance of a multi-disciplinary approach to patient care. From a personal viewpoint, my grandmother was admitted to another Scottish hospital last year and the communication between departments was really poor, resulting in my family developing a complete lack of confidence in the NHS. My Gran had taken a ‘turn’ which I explained in detail to the paramedics, explained again to the A&E staff, explained again to the admittance ward and then had to explain to a doctor and other nursing staff in yet another ward later the same day. Perhaps this was an isolated incident and there had just been a breakdown of communication somewhere, but I found it disheartening, that key information regarding her health and well being was not being communicated to those administering her care.
I’m pleased to say my time in Dumfries has restored my faith in the NHS somewhat. I attended many meetings and staff huddles which focused on patient-centred care. Living in Ayrshire and studying in Glasgow, it is amazing how many people I speak to who agree Dumfries is a lovely town and I have spoken to many people who agree the infirmary is a fantastic hospital.
You may by now be wondering what all this has to do with fuzzy felt! As a leaving gift, I was presented with a beautiful memento of my time in the lab; a framed felt picture of me as a Biomedical Scientist. The picture is beautifully crafted with lots of small pieces of felt stitched together with beaded detail….and I suppose this is a good analogy of the NHS.
The various teams and departments are represented by all the different pieces of fabric. But only when all the individual pieces come together do we have a purpose. And I like to think of the stitching as the staff – an essential component to hold it all together! I met many lovely people during my time in the hospital and so many of you helped me, trained me and offered advice….thanks to each and every one of you!
Kirsty Hyslop is studying Applied Biomedical Science at Glasgow Caledonian University.