Anaesthetics audit gives student experience in pain medicine

At the end of her scholarly intensive placement, final year medical student Amy Dai, stood before the entire anaesthetics department at Bendigo Health and presented the results of her audit.

She’s sure this will be the most memorable moment of the rotation. "I got feedback or real time thoughts and comments on, not only my work, but also the results of the audit,” said Amy.

Well supported

Only six weeks before, she’d started an audit comparing the prescription of slow release opioids to post-operative orthopaedic patients with guidelines released by the Australian and New Zealand College of Anaesthetists.

“Before this I hadn't really had much experience in doing an audit, designing an audit, collecting data or analysing data,” she said. But her two supervisors guided her through the process step-by-step. “I felt very, very supported.”

She had weekly meetings with them where they gave her feedback and direction. “Apart from those meetings, I also exchanged many, many emails with them whenever I had a question, a query or a concern. And they always got back to me really quickly.”

Clinical time with patients

Though the project involved a lot of desk time analysing data, she also gained firsthand insight into the sort of patients her data represented.

“I got to participate in pain rounds every morning with the acute pain services team. I was actually seeing the decision making, or the challenges that came with treating patients for acute pain,” said Amy.

“Although my project focussed on post-operative patients, I got to see everyone who had difficult pain to deal with. It taught me a lot about the different modalities of medicine that we have to treat pain, especially opioids.”

Amy already had an interest in anaesthetics and pain medicine which is why she preferenced this project first and she was pleased to be matched with it.

A huge opportunity for students

Dr Tushar Indulka is a consultant staff anaesthetist at Bendigo Health. He sees the final year scholarly rotation as a huge opportunity for students that might help them shape their future career. “It's an excellent opportunity for them to be able to participate in activities and tasks which actually contribute to clinical practice. By doing all this, they also develop their critical thinking, their critical writing,” he said. “From our department’s perspective, they help us to do the audit. It's a great help from them to our department.” The findings of the audit provided evidence for the need for additional resources to support anaesthetists who are working with clinically complex patient populations.

Amy agreed with Dr Indulka's summary of skills gained. “As medical students it's really hard to find opportunities like this and it's very rare that we get to do something and complete it from start to finish. I feel like that was also part of why this was so valuable. I got to do the entire thing and see it to the end.”

Being able to immerse herself in the project for six weeks was just as valuable. “It's just really good to see medicine from a different perspective because we're always seeing it either from the clinical perspective or from books.”