A Student Panel member writes about our second Panel meeting

Yesterday was one of the warmest days of the year so far, and also the second student advisory panel meeting. This time it was held in Guy’s Hospital, in London Bridge. I’ll be frank – I’ve never actually been into a hospital before, and the clinical hustle and bustle of Guy’s was totally new to me, and incredibly exciting. There were eighteen members of the panel at this meeting, as well as two teachers, and, of course, Mr Lunt and Dr MacBean. We all piled into the lift, and – on a boiling June afternoon – having twenty two people in a lift that held fifteen was sweltering.

We emerged, gasping, into a blissfully cool foyer. The meeting itself was really interesting – we had talks from Dr Rafferty, a Senior Lecturer at King’s College London, and Dr Howard, a junior Doctor at King’s College Hospital. They both gave a talk about their education, how they got their jobs and what they entail, and what they enjoy about their careers in science. Dr Rafferty regaled us with stories about his time as a helicopter Houdini – he worked for the Defence Research Agency, figuring out ways to escape from helicopters that have sunk and developing breathing equipment. As someone who has an irrational fear of being stranded in the ocean, escaping from a submerged helicopter sounds horrific. But Dr Rafferty made it sound quite the adventure.

Dr Howard put me off ever being a medical doctor – she’s just finishing her second year of training and, after having a year off to have a baby (cue “ahhhhs” from the panel) she has to do seven years more. SEVEN YEARS. Now, that’s dedication. But her talk was also interesting – she told us how everyone wants an academic training programme (which is one that has time for research) and about the things that junior doctors study in hospitals – such as general surgery and trauma, paediatrics and neonatal intensive care.

After a short break wherein we had the chance to ask any additional questions to Drs Howard and Rafferty, we commenced the second part of our meeting. It was a discussion about research into post-ICU syndrome, and whether rehabilitation was the right way to get patients up and about again. Often, patients lose muscle strength after being in intensive care for a long time, because they haven’t been moving around, or because they aren’t getting enough energy, so their body starts to attack the muscles to try to get some. There are also psychological issues, cognitive problems, and problems for families who find it hard to care for a patient, after they have been discharged.

Our discussion centred on research about whether rehab was the best way to treat these patients. There are many things to consider, such as different rates of recovery, different types of treatments for different critical illnesses, and how we can even conduct clinical trials to measure the effectiveness of rehab, given that it’s hard to monitor people before they have a critical illness, because it’s often very sudden. It was all very enlightening, and gave me an insight into how hard medical research can be.

Overall, the meeting was hugely thought-provoking – I hope not just for me, but for my fellow panel members. I learnt a lot about a range of things, none of which I will forget soon. But, despite the enjoyableness of the meeting, I am very glad I won’t have to get in that lift again!

Lily Groom, Year 12 Student Advisory Panel member, Burntwood School

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