Sam’s Blog – A Final year Medical Student Elective in Aix en Provence. Week 5 – Des Conflits

It’s been an interesting week as the interns changed jobs on 4th May, which has made things very busy and stressful for everyone. To make matters worse, there are only 5 new interns to replace the 7 who have just left, so sorting out their rotas has been somewhat difficult for them, and I’m not sure how much notice has been taken of the EWTD…

So on the 4th May I tried to make myself useful, as the number of patients to be seen by doctors were racking up to about 20 and hoped I’d be able to help speed things up, but this didn’t go so well. After establishing that all the doctors were busy, the first patient I went to see (after tentatively checking with the seniors that this would be ok, as previously I had stuck with the interns, but the new interns were having all of the induction talks), was a middle aged man who had recently had a DVT and had come in having experienced some palpitations. I explained whom I was, and that hopefully I would be able to speed up the process and get the ball rolling and check everything with a consultant. I started taking a history but unfortunately he had one of the strongest Marseille accents I’ve come across yet. I had to clarify a few words and unfortunately this wound him up quite a lot. An angry Marseille accent is even harder to understand! Through the barrage of sound I did understand that he wanted to see a doctor, so I explained that I would go and put him back in the line where he was to be seen by the next available doctor. Not the best start to the week. I understand entirely why he was angry, as he was scared (admittedly the language barrier and the fact I am a student didn’t help) but I refute the fact that being aggressive will ever get anything quicker no matter what the situation, but in reality will always happen in hospitals.

That afternoon I had a second similar experience, after checking with one of the consultants that I could go and see a patient I presented back to her and received a grilling on the history, with which my ability to talk French seemed to disappear, which with hindsight is amusing, but wasn’t at the time!

Tuesday started better and I was down to do SMUR. After meeting at the hospital we went to the fire station where the service is based. The doctor who I was with for the day showed me around the whole base – showing me all the fire engines, which ones did what, how they worked, the mountain rescue stuff, which was very sweet of him and made me feel like an excitable child. Unfortunately (fortunately for the generally population!) it was quite a quiet shift with only one call out for a lady living in a retirement home with epigastric pain. She was admitted for further investigation.

Apart from time in the hospital this week I’ve made time to make the most of the local sites and attractions, visiting the calanques at Cassis (renowned for the coldest sea in the Mediterranean) and climbing Mont Saint-Victoire twice and visiting Marseille. Even mastering driving on the wrong side of the road with no accidents!