Posted on July 20, 2017

During the summer of 2016, Ms Laura Dugan undertook a clinical elective at the Vancouver General Hospital in British Columbia.  The four-week elective was possible through the Dr Nicholas and Mrs Maura Martin Scholarship.  Laura describes her experience below:

In June 2016, I was awarded the Dr Nicholas and Mrs Maura Martin Scholarship, a huge honour that allowed me to complete a four-week elective in cardiology in Vancouver General Hospital in British Columbia in Canada. The elective was completed under the supervision of cardiologist Dr Victor Huckell.

The experience was exceptional. In North America, students are given a higher level of individual responsibility than students tend to be given in Ireland. As a result, after two days of intense training, in how the outpatient clinic operated, I was seeing all of my patients entirely on my own.

Every morning before clinic began, we received one hour of teaching. This involved Dr Huckell choosing one aspect of cardiology and finding innovative ways to teach it to us. The morning sessions were always very interactive and questions and comments were actively encouraged. Every day we were assigned some reading material and we were expected to complete this assignment before the next session. Reading assignments usually included journal articles on the topic of the day’s discussion and/or articles that caught our attention, for either a good or a bad reason. The following morning, these topics were then discussed.

When the morning teaching session ended, clinic began and we would start seeing our patients. Before seeing a patient, I would first read their file and any previous letters from the clinic to their GP regarding their care. Then I would call the patient in and take their full history with a focus on their cardiovascular symptoms and needs. After this I would discuss any of their previous test results with them and then perform a complete examination of the cardiovascular system on each patient. Once this was concluded, I would then decide on their treatment plan including what tests I would propose, if any, what medication changes I would recommend and what lifestyle changes I would advise them to make.

Once this was completed, I would call Dr Huckell. Dr Hucknall would then briefly examine the patient and run through the full history and the proposed plan.  Dr Huckell would at that point comment on the plan and make any necessary changes as well as advising me on my history taking and delivery skills, and my exam findings –  he would always find a key learning point in each patient for me. After he left, I would go through the recommended treatment plan with the patient and make sure they were fully informed. I was also responsible for booking any tests that needed to be booked and dictating the appropriate letter to the patient’s GP.

Working like this gave me the opportunity to get some real experience about what it would be like to work as a doctor. It taught me not to look at a patient as a series of systems but to think of the patient as a whole and accordingly consider their holistic care.

The amount of practical experience I obtained during this elective was invaluable and will stand to me throughout my career. Furthermore, I gained some very useful practical cardiological skills such as evaluating murmurs, listening for added heart sounds and taking and evaluating ECGs.

Ms Laura Dugan at Vancouver

Laura Dugan [second from right] with colleagues from Vancouver General Hospital

Overall it was a wonderful personal and professional experience, none of which would have been possible without the Dr Nicholas and Mrs Maura Martin Scholarship. I wish to thank the donors so much for providing me with this opportunity – an experience I will always treasure.

Yours sincerely,

Laura Dugan

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