On 5th July was our second Student Panel meeting where we were fortunate enough to receive hands-on practical experience in the labs of the Chest Unit at King’s College Hospital! Our main point of interest today was to investigate measurements of inspiratory and expiratory muscle strength. The session started with all the members reintroducing ourselves to one another and speaking about what we study and what we would like to do in the future. It was great to catch up again and meet new members who I didn’t see at our last meeting! I made a load of new friends who gave me valuable tips regarding university and a career in medicine and science. These activities made us all feel very welcome again and very excited for the afternoon!
We were split into three groups depending on what we’d prefer to investigate and I chose to do respiratory muscle testing. My team’s practical was led by Brittany Best who is a current MSc student. Britt was extremely supportive and reassuring which made us find the practical easy and exciting to carry out. She started by teaching us the names and functions of the equipment which we were going to use; these included nose bungs, mouth pieces and a 3-chamber metal valve which we all used at some point of our practical. We also got to pop in to the other group’s rooms and see the cool stuff they were using such as an ECG! In my team, we performed measurements of inspiratory and expiratory muscle strength using the PImax, PEmax and SNIP technique. The PImax was much harder to carry out because we were not used to the equipment but also because it was so unusual to us! This made us think about how difficult a healthcare professional may find it to get accurate data from a patient’s results as patients can often be giggly or even find the unusual technique very awkward and hence will alter their breathing pattern, either purposefully or subconsciously. To obtain results, patients must suck air into their lungs through a mouth-piece. This may sound simple at first, however it quickly challenged our lung muscle ability when my partner was told to close one of the valves. It felt as though my lungs were about to burst because I couldn’t breathe in any air after a certain point due to the valve, but was generating a lot of pressure in my lungs! The SNIP test was much easier to do as it just involved sticking a nose-bung up your nose and breathing regularly with a little twist: give a powerful sniff after every third breath out. Although it isn’t the most fashionable way to gather results, it sure was easier!
Once we all had a chance to take on the roles of both a patient and the scientist, we each analysed our data to see if our values fell into the predicted range values. After a couple of attempts with Brittany reassuring us that it is tough when you’re new to it, we finally got the hang of it! Our values started looking normal as we got more used to the test.
Once we finished our practical, we then all discussed how these tests might be adapted to different patient populations including younger children or those on intensive care. We discussed about how someone on intensive care may not be able to breathe as they usually would and hence more invasive measures would be taken into consideration such as a technique which runs a tube through your nose and down the back of your throat which allows successful results to be collected. We also thought of the difficulties an individual may face due to weakened muscle strength such as those who suffer from motor neurone disease. The team spoke about how hard it must be for somebody’s biceps to always feel very painful and heavy as if a heavy bag was attached on to them! This made us reflect and contemplate about how difficult their home life could be, especially if they lived alone as simple everyday activities such as walking up the stairs could be a challenge to them.
The day was just as expected: very fun and factual! I always enjoy our student panel meetings as each meeting is different from the rest and always involves activities which I have never done before or even knew existed!
Huge thank you again to Dr Vicky MacBean and everybody else who works hard to make all our meetings amazing!
Sarah Ezzeddine, Year 12, Harris Academy Peckham