Speaking as two fourth year medical students who’ve just come off an ED rotation in rural Kent, we know how tough it is to drop everything and move somewhere completely new for eight weeks. In this article, we share our top tips on how to not just survive on placement but thrive in the new atmosphere you’ve been dropped in!
1- Plan some day trips- Whilst the area we were placed in wasn’t the most exciting or aesthetically pleasing area, it sure was close to some of the prettiest beaches we’ve ever been to. Rural Kent or Barbados? Could’ve fooled me. Historic towns with pebbly streets were just 30 minutes away. Whilst it’s important to make sure you attend all of your placements, there is usually some protected time for “Self-DirectedLearning”, which you can do in a group from a cute cafe as effectively as alone in the library. Although you may have some scheduling conflicts amongst your placement partners, it is rare that you are the only person with free time, and, even if you are, you’ll be glad to put yourself in an environment that isn’t a hospital, even if only for a few hours.
2-Try to make the most out of it - Reality is, you’re not in a city / on campus anymore. There may not be bars or restaurants on your doorstep. Society meetings all have to be on zoom now and the nearest McDonald’s is a 25-minute bus ride away. It’s not the best environment to be in, but it means you are able to try and throw yourself into as much medicine as possible. Work twilight shifts, stay that extra hour and make those connections - you never know what might come out of it, be it new research opportunities, chances to do exciting clinical skills like suturing, or get that niche sign off. Be approachable and hardworking.
3- Make sure to keep in touch with people at home-home - When we first moved out, one of the hardest things we faced was being away from our friends and family. The FOMO from seeing friends’ stories going out for dinner or drinks made it easy to feel left behind. Make sure that you schedule in regular times to call and text your family and friends to try your best to avoid this. Face time is a great way to may you feel connected to those you can’t physically be. Just remember to not isolate yourself, especially if you’re feeling low. I guarantee that picking up that phone and talking to familiar faces will give you that serotonin boost.
4- Don’t lose too much sleep - okay, I know we said in point 2 that it’s good to make the most out of your placement, but looking after yourself should be your number 1 priority. If you need to take the night off medicine to do something to take the pressure off, like making yourself a nice dinner, reading a book (not medical!!!) or watch a TV show (not Grey’s anatomy!!!) then go ahead and do it. Treat yourself! Medicine can become a toxic and tough place, especially when you’re surrounding yourself with it 24/7. We already know it’s important to have a good work/life balance. For the sake of your mental health, peripheral placements are the most important place to prioritise this. Don’t stay up all night studying every night, this is a sure-fire way to ensure a miserable placement and burn out. Taking care of your mental health and well-being will allow you to perform to your best ability.
5-Become besties with your placement partners - ok, this one’s a little unrealistic. Not everyone’s going to be your cup of tea and that’s okay.However, there were 40 people alone on our rural placement. Some of them you’re bound to click with. Spend time in the common room, organise group studies and plan wholesome activities. Enjoy each other’s company and who knows, you might even meet some of the people you spent a great amount of time with, even when you’re all back home.
6- Nothing bad lasts forever - Sometimes, even if you try your hardest, you can still find yourself feeling down and isolated in a new environment. Remember that placements don’t last forever, and you’ll find yourself back home before you know it. It can be tough trying to adjust to new environments in addition to dealing with life’s obstacles. I promise you’re not the only one feeling like this, and, if you feel you can’t open up to your new friends yet, having a few people at home on speed dial to remind you of all the good things in your life can never hurt. You’ve got this, we believe in you!