Tatiana Zhelezniakova interviews Dr Damien Brown who recounts the challenges of medical humanitarianism, working for MSF and returning to First World medicineWritten by Tatiana Zhelezniakova on 19th April 2017
Volunteering With the Police Service as a Medical Student
Medicine student, Tatiana Zhelezniakova, shares her experience of volunteering with the emergency services and expands on why it is such a valuable experience for any young medic
At a medical interview, when you are nauseous and transiently unable to understand human speech, you are inevitably asked the dreaded ‘why medicine?’ question. So, in a half-shout, you throw out interview prep book terms like ‘versatility’ and ‘continued learning’. But these are little more than vague concepts you think the interviewer would like mentioned. To me,’ versatility’ meant the choice between medicine and surgery. ‘Continued learning’ meant having to learn more unpronounceable drug names as they were licensed.
“What I didn’t think it would mean was standing on a wrecked Volvo, cutting off its doors with power tools
What I didn’t think it would mean was standing on a wrecked Volvo, cutting off its doors with power tools lent to me by the fire service. I should probably mention that this was part of an extrication exercise at a Pre-Hospital Trauma Course, rather than an act of vandalism (as a side note, this is an excellent stress management technique, with adequate supervision). The reason I was lucky enough to get a place on this course was due to my previous volunteering with the police service.
All firearms police officers in the UK are required to be trained in first aid, and multiple courses are organised across the country. Where do medical students come in? We’re the practice dummies. Generally, volunteers are from clinical years, the rationale being that students would have sufficient clinical knowledge to emulate trauma victims, while simultaneously assessing the competency of the trainees. We often participate in several scenarios ranging from basic life support to multiple trauma casualty scenarios. From our side, this provides a brilliant insight into police work; emergency services don’t operate in isolation, and knowing your colleagues’ aims and competencies is crucial to cohesive and efficient team work.
“While our main aim as volunteers is to assist the police service, the benefit to us is astronomical
While our main aim as volunteers is to assist the police service, the benefit to us is astronomical. Not only do we get a revision of old skills and the receipt of new ones, we also enjoy a completely different side to clinical medicine. In some cases, it can even aid to revive a forgotten interest: in those middle medical school years of little responsibility and much memorisation, motivation can get stagnant, and this is the perfect break in the quotidian. To me, this work has demonstrated the excitement of working in a less controlled environment, and the extensive skillset and knowledge required to do so. If you ever get the opportunity to volunteer with emergency services in any capacity, I would strongly urge you to do so. Just remember to bring a spare shirt.