Location: Chicago- Loyola University Medical Center

Main Activites: Every morning starts at 5am (i.e. you have to wake up at about 4am!). You do your own ward round. It’s up to you to talk to the nurses to find out how your patients did overnight. Then once the rest of the team arrives at 6am you fill them in on everything they need to know. Then, the whole team will round together. Once the round is done, you quickly write the notes in to the computer system and rush down to theatre for about 8am.You will scrub in and assist with every surgery.

The main things that you will see are amputations, axilliary artery to femoral artery bypasses, femoral artery to popliteal artery bypasses, triple A repairs and microphlebectomy procedures. You will get to suture from day one and will be left to your own devices as time progresses. Once each op. is over, you will be expected to bring the patient out to the PACU (post anesthesia care unit) and write the operative report. Typically, you will scrub for 3 operations a day. Evening rounds happen at about 5pm or 6pm and if no emergencies come in you will be allowed to head away once the round is done. Outpatient clinic runs all day Wednesday. You are given a huge amount of responsibility and independence. You work up patients by yourself, write the notes in to the computer and come up with a plan. The attending will look over what you came up with, make any necessary adjustments and then you will go back to the patient together. It’s a great learning experience and you will feel very confident by the time to 2nd Wednesday rolls around. There were about 40 patients at each clinic. It’s a great opportunity to perfect your history taking and physical exam technique. Other activities include going to the cath. lab and assisting with angiographies, team teaching sessions (the teaching is great!), research meetings and you can go to tutorials with the other loyola students. They are very friendly and will make you feel welcome.

Advantages: You are a true member of the team. They rely on you and count on you to get things done. You get a loyola white coat, id badge and pager. You get unbelievable hands on experience in the operating room. You will get to do a lot of sewing and maybe even get to use the bone saw! I got to do a lot of microphlebectomy too. You become an expert at assessing peripheral pulses! You will be able to tell if its mono-, bi- or tri- phasic (something I thought I’d never be able to do!). You also become very comfortable at assessing ulcers and varicose veins. Peripheral vascular might sound like a boring service but I got to see a lot of patients in the emergency dept……gunshot wounds, road traffic accidents, AAA’s. It was great experience. You also learn how to assess patients and come up with a plan for them by yourself. You learn how to handle things by yourself. Everyone on the team is an excellent teacher. The teaching is brilliant.

Disadvantages: The only drawback to this is the long hours. You are also requested to do every second weekend. Accommodation and public transport in the area is also a bit tricky.

Life Outside The Hospital: Not a lot of time for this! But if you do happen to have some energy left, downtown Chicago is very accessible. Trains run regularly and are very cheap.  It is a beautiful city with a cool vibe….I met Vince Vaughn on one of my trips in to town!

Most Memorable Moment: There are almost too many to mention. It was a challenging but amazing life experience. The main highlights were when I sutured for the first time and when I got to use the bone saw!

Would I recommend it: Yes.

Tips on how to organise it: e-mail me at doireannodriscoll@hotmail.com