Four young Caymanians have spent the summer honing their medical skills at the Cayman Islands Hospital.
Three first-year medical students and a starting nursing student gained experience in different wards at the hospital, performing a variety of patient-care duties.
Previously, students would get summer employment at the hospital doing clerical and data entry jobs, according to Hazel Brown, acting chief nursing officer at the Health Services Authority.
‘This year, we didn’t have funding for that programme, but we had some nursing assistant vacancies. We felt these students could handle that level of duty since they had a fair amount of experience in the medical profession,’ Mrs. Brown said.
During the course of the summer, the students spent two weeks each in the operating room, medical, surgical, and accident and emergency, working from 7am to 3.30 pm.
Andrew Brown, 19, who is going into his second year at the University of the West Indies, found the summer at the hospital educational.
‘It helped me to sharpen some skills I learned at school this year, such as taking vital signs,’ he said.
Margarita Awe is starting nursing school in September, but now she already has hospital experience under her belt.
‘It’s a great experience. I definitely recommend it. Everyone has been so willing to help. Doctors have even offered to tutor us after work,’ Ms Awe said.
Medical student Joel Rose has actually worked at the hospital for several summers in various clerical jobs, but this year he was able to carry out hands-on patient care.
Mr. Rose, 24, who is starting his second year at the University of Connecticut School of Medicine, was enthusiastic about his experience at the hospital.
‘A lot of the things I learned I hadn’t even touched on in medical school yet,’ he said.
Ciara Best, 22, is starting her second year at UWI. Since she had extra time, she also spent a week each in the specialist clinic, general practice clinic and women’s health services.
‘In women’s health, I got experience working in antenatal care. One day we also had a contraception clinic. I learned how to communicate and interact with patients so you can make them comfortable with you and better help them,’ she said.
The general practice clinic offered her a broader experience.
‘In GP, I dealt with all kinds of cases. You need a wider knowledge as a physician, you need to be able to detect what disease or problem a patient has,’ Ms Best said.
The variety of experiences proved valuable for the four students.
‘Every department is so different, you really can’t prepare for it. The A&E is fast-paced and lots of patient care is needed on the wards,’ Ms Awe said.
She was allowed to observe operations at CIH as well, something she had never done before.
Mr. Rose also enjoyed his time in the OR.
‘Being in the OR was a wonderful experience. I observed a few surgeries – a C-section and eye surgery,’ he said.
For Mr. Brown, his two weeks in accident and emergency were his favourite.
‘I really enjoyed A&E the most. It was not so much of a routine. It was more unpredictable. There was never a dull moment,’ he said.
Ms Awe has yet to choose a favourite department.
‘There is so much you can do in nursing. I can’t decide,’ she said.
Her time studying nursing at Ryerson University in Toronto may help with that decision. During her studies, Ms Awe will be doing clinical work at local hospitals.
Ms Awe has already received lots of hands-on education this summer, with the students being given many different jobs to do.
‘Anything basic that the nurses feel we can handle, we’ve done – making beds; tending to patients’ needs, even if it is just giving them water; checking vital signs; wound cleaning; assisting in suturing; and giving bed baths.
‘I would do whatever the nurse felt comfortable that I could do, but I needed permission and the nurse had to watch,’ she said.
Perhaps even more importantly, the patients were open and cooperative with the students.
‘The patients were very willing to talk and they would even be the ones to encourage us. They would say, ‘It’s nice to see Caymanian students at the hospital studying medicine come back home and take care of us,” Ms Best said.
Support from staff
The support of the medical staff at the hospital has also been instrumental to the students’ positive experiences.
‘One day in the ICU (intensive care unit) we were given training in giving shots and putting in IVs. Some of the paramedics even volunteered to get IVs put in.
‘I have worked with a lot of nurses and a lot of doctors. They were always very helpful and took time to answer questions,’ Ms Awe said.
Ms Best agreed.
‘We don’t have a teaching hospital as such here, but I would say the HSA is very much a teaching institution. The doctors and nurses were very willing to teach us and guide us,’ she said.
The staff at the hospital also benefited, Mrs. Brown said.
‘All the people they worked with in each department were very happy with their performance.
‘It was an excellent two-way experience – they helped us and we helped them,’ Mrs. Brown said.
No decision has yet been made on repeating the programme next year.
‘I’d love to do it again, but I can’t predict. The programme will be evaluated and we’ll determine if we’re going to do it again next summer,’ she said.
The students are already looking to the future.
‘If I get the chance to come in again, I will. I wouldn’t trade (the experience) for anything,’ Mr. Brown said.
They also plan to give something back to the community.
‘I would like to work abroad, but I definitely want to return home to work someday,’ Ms Awe said.
Mr. Rose wants to practice here as well.
‘I definitely plan to come back. Cayman is home. It is just a matter of time, when I finish with all my medical studies,’ he said.