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Words not enough: care, understanding and love; thank you seems so little.

- Hospice patient

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From Volunteer to Medical Student

13 March 2018

Jack talks to us about his experiences at St. Rocco’s

Jack Dobson

Jack Dobson is a fourth year medical student completing his 3 week placement in palliative care at St. Rocco’s. It is a familiar setting for Jack as he volunteered here whilst at sixth form college before gaining a place to study medicine at Liverpool University.

He kindly agreed to tell us about his experience both as a volunteer and as a student here.

“I volunteered on the inpatient unit for two years whilst I was at Winstanley College. I wanted to get as varied experience as possible in healthcare settings.

When I came to St. Rocco’s to volunteer I had never been to a hospice before. I had certain expectations of what it would be like and in reality it was nothing like I had imagined. It’s not a miserable place at all, but bright and positive.

My main role as a volunteer was to make drinks for patients and visitors. Talking to patients really helped me to see them as a person, not so much as a patient and this has been a valuable insight as I have been training as a doctor.

The experience I gained at the hospice and the insight into palliative medicine was fantastic. Dr. Sulaivany, the Locum Consultant at St. Rocco’s, invited me to shadow her. I learned a lot about different aspects of healthcare, not just the medical side of things. I was also able to sit in on a programme called Six Steps to End of Life Care. Being able to benefit from the experience of nurses and healthcare professionals was very helpful.

I came to understand that, for patients, there are other things that are just as important to them, aside from their medical needs.

Coming back to St. Rocco’s now as a fourth year medical student has been really positive. Palliative medicine is a very different type of care. As a doctor you want to make people better and cure them. In palliative medicine you have to let go of that fear of failure, because cure is not an option. It means you need to focus on what is important to your patient and how you can best help them. Having completed a number of hospital placements now, one thing that I would say is that staff involved in palliative care definitely have a different approach and personality to other doctors and nurses. It is a challenging area of medicine and they are clearly well suited to it.

At Liverpool University the palliative care placement is three weeks in a hospice and one week at Clatterbridge Hospital. Not all universities offer something this comprehensive. It is very good training and really helps to develop our communication skills.

A placement in palliative care is so useful for anyone training to be a doctor. Whatever area we specialise in, we will be dealing with patients and families and this placement really helps to develop the skills needed to do that in a positive and understanding way.

St. Rocco’s has a rolling programme of placements of fourth year medical students throughout the academic year. If you are thinking about a career in medicine and would like to gain some experience by volunteering, please contact our Voluntary Services team on 01925 575780 or email volunteering@stroccos.org.uk.

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