Excited as I was, I embarked on my long-awaited elective adventure at the Addenbrooke’s Hospital, Cambridge University NHS Trust Hospitals after bidding farewell to my family, friends and a long-haul flight that lasted for more than 24 hours.
Addenbrooke’s Hospital is a world-renown teaching hospital affiliated with Cambridge University. It was founded in 1766 by Dr John Addenbrookes, a fellow of St Catherine’s College. As a tertiary hospital, Addenbrooke’s Hospital offers a full range of specialty services to the Northern Anglia region. It is ran by the Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust. They are a leading international centre for biomedical research and medical education.
Down to business
The Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery Department at Addenbrooke’s Hospital is led by 19 consultants and supported by 2 fellows, 9 specialty registrars and 9 house surgeons. As PRS is a highly specialized field, the department does not prescribe a fixed programme for elective students. On my first day at Addenbrooke’s I was provided with a preliminary schedule of surgeries and outpatient clinics. My main supervisor was very busy and only spends 2-3 days per week at Addenbrooke’s. He spent most of his working hours in the private sector or at conferences/seminars. I maximized my own learning process by taking the initiative to source for the Department’s rota on a weekly basis. I studied the roster very carefully and attended sessions that would be beneficial for my learning.
A typical day at the hospital starts with ward rounds at around 7.45am. What struck me as a significant cultural difference was the approach in which ward rounds were carried out. In Auckland, ward rounds comprise of consultant-led teams. At Addenbrooke’s Hospital, there was not only no fixed team, but also no fixed starting time for ward rounds. Registrars randomly select a cluster of patients from a list to review each morning. From a clinical and efficacy perspective, I felt that the lack of a uniform system and structure is not only time-consuming but also lacking in continuity of patient care. Having different doctors review different patients each morning was disruptive for patients as more time is spent going through clinical records instead of building upon previously established rapport. In this aspect, the team-based structure in our local New Zealand hospitals performed much better.
After ward rounds, I usually spend my day at outpatient clinics, in theatre or shadow the on-call trauma registrar to attend to ad-hoc assessment and theatre trauma list. On a weekly basis, I attend multidisciplinary meetings and department teachings. At the end of each day and sometimes over the weekend, I would spend my time preparing for my upcoming presentation at the 14th Annual Surgical Congress and also work on the three research projects.
As the saying goes, “all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.” After a long week at the hospital, one cannot miss exploring this beautiful student town. We visited the beautiful colleges that have a rich history behind each and every one of them. We went punting on River Cam (an activity not to be missed when in Cambridge!!). It was here where we finally got close and snapped photographs with the famous The Mathematical Bridge and Bridge of Sighs!
Figure 1. Bidding farewell to my family and friends at the Auckland International Airport and onwards to the United Kingdom for my much-awaited elective at Cambridge!
Figure 2. First week at Addenbrooke’s Hospital
Figure 3. Photograph whilst visiting Gonville & Caius College, University of Cambridge, United Kingdom
Figure 4. Photograph of Bridge of Sighs whilst punting on River Cam
More from Isabel See
You can read about Isabel’s first experience as an assistant microsurgeon, attending outpatient clinics, her presentation at the 14th Annual Academic Surgical Congress and more at her My elective experience blog.
MAS Elective Scholarship Recipient
Isabel See is in her sixth year of a Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery at the University of Auckland. She is one of the two inaugural recipients of the MAS Elective Scholarship. She received $1,500 towards her elective in the Plastics and Reconstructive Surgery (PRS) department at Cambridge University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust in England. Isabel’s ambition is to pursue a career in the field of Plastics and Reconstructive Surgery.