Thursday, 6 December 2012

VLEs, Medportal and #ukmeded

Just a quick note as I asked a few weeks ago to talk about Virtual Learning Environments (VLEs) on the popular twitter chat #ukmeded which involves clinicians, students and even some of those responsible for running med school courses in various parts of the Uk. I am driving back from placement tonight to be back for my SJT tomorrow (eeek, and also another rant for another time) so I thought I'd pop some notes together on why I was so desperate to discuss this (read rant about).

In my humble opinion the Cambridge VLE is completely unfit for purpose. I tried taking some screen shots to show you why but as you'll discover from this post they were too complicated to make much sense! Lets discuss the things I'd want from a VLE and why I think the Cambridge one fails on many of them.

1) A clear and informative front page
Here is my one screen shot:
No I have no idea where to start either.

2) My timetables, Placement information, where to go and when to find accomodation keys/my ward/the clinic I'm scheduled for, who I need to talk to locally on placement for this sort of info

Cambridge's system:
Overall placements for the year often are released very late and onto an entirely different university website. They are also on our front page of the VLE but not as an overview of your year (I even had trouble finding out when my holidays were at first!). Each placement in the Stage tab has a set of dates next to it these form a drop down list, click on the right dates and you will see who you are going on placement with. Don't know the right dates? Go to a different website.

Placement info/ joining instructions: Start at home page go >general-> general curriculum info-> Joining instructions->Hospital Info->Pick correct hospital->AHA! Varying levels of info depending on regional admin ( I had to play with VLE to work out how to find this again!)

Timetables: In base hospital- then perhaps if you click on the placement (From stage tab on homepage) and then on timetables if it is available  there might be a timetable of clinics (and whether there are allocated or not) and any teaching there is available. Or there might not be.
Or if you are on our Stage 2 Neurology, Rheumatology and Orthopaedics 6 week rotation there will be 16 separate documents with this sort of info which you must integrate and make sure you get everything necessary signed off and taught with no clashes either within your timetable or with other students. Confusing.
In regional: Rely on emails from local admin staff/word of mouth there will be only timetables for Addies students on the VLE.
Communication skills sessions: Curricular themes tab-> communication skills->pick appropriate stage resources tab lots of resources, no indication of when I might have any sessions though...

3) Information about assessments and coursework clearly labelled with dates due and what is expected of me, emails to notify me of such coursework, maybe a list of the things I need to do each term/ each placement

Cambridge system:
If I go to my stage "hub" and click on the assessment tab it appears to be empty- not even any info about finals. There are tabs about Simulator session but no timetable of when my session might be, and about L-SSC's. No mention of the 2 palliative care essays, the team work reflective portfolio piece I was emailed about the other day or the prescribing exam. Last year we only heard by word of mouth about a reflective portfolio piece we had to complete before going on elective on our experience across the year a few weeks before elective.

If I go to general tab on the home page, then to general curriculum info then to assessments and examinations there is the info about finals. Shame thought I didn't have any :(

Those "assignments" you can see on the screen shot- some of them are proper coursework I must electronically submit but most of them are feedback forms.

4) Resources like lecture notes, podcasts, reading lists etc uploaded promptly and to a location I have a hope in hell in finding. Possibly even all downloadable for when on placement with no internet

Random e.g. Stage 2 Paeds resources, Go Stage 2 tab-> Growth and development placement->
?Integrated teaching tab (nope try again)
-> Related course Paeds-> handouts and documents Aha! There are some of them as documents.
Or Home-> Speciality tab-> Paeds-> handouts and documents
This is one of the better options. I chose it really randomly.
Podcasts are NOT downloadable, nor watchable on hospital library comps. Hmm.

5) A way to find all of the above, quickly and intuitively with no need for wading through the site clicking randomly on links e.g. logical placement of above, a search box

Random illogical inclusion and placement of above
No search box

6) Listening and responding to feedback
Not really a website issue more of a med school issue. Feedback over many years about the Cambridge VLE led them to revamp it for a large sum of money from its previous incarnation as ERweb in my 4th year. ERweb had many of the above issues and was less than pretty but had the odd but useful system of page numbers which when one person found something would lead the rest of us to it directly. The VLE is prettier no doubt. One consistent piece of feedback both before and after the revamp was the need for a search function on the website and that was all it would take to transform the system. No-one has any idea why they didn't ask for this in their expensive revamp. They continue to defend its absence by stating how difficult it would be to add one.

Apparently the VLE we have in Cam is one of the best in the country and many other med schools would love to have one like ours. We are very dubious.

Tell me, what do you want from a VLE and how does the VLE you use provide it and the above? Is it just us who are so frustrated by the system?

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Week 7

It seems a long time ago since I last wrote, and things are pretty different too- instead of writing from the little internet shack in Raro instead I'm writing this on David's laptop in a hotel room in California.

Our final proper weekend in Raro we finished off our souvenir shopping at the market, and had to do a couple of laps of the market before we were all satisfied we had what we wanted and needed! Sunday saw us finally go on a Lagoon cruise which we had been putting off to do in Aitutaki. While it was one of the most touristy things we did, it was really worth it. Amy thought it was too cold to go for a swim  but Ali, Katia and I went snorkelling off the glass-bottomed boat once they had taken us over to the marine reserve. There were hundreds of fish, as they fed them with the carcass of a huge tuna (our lunch had been filleted off earlier). We also found it entertaining to swim under the glass bottom of the boat and have Amy take photos of us. After snorkelling we headed to a little motu (island) in the lagoon  for lunch and a show. They showed us how to climb a coconut tree and husk a coconut before bringing me and another girl up to demonstrate how to tie a pareu (sarong). Then it was time for the guys version of the ties and Ali got brought up. Ali ended up with a pair of shorts tied and then got to perform a Haka with the guides-with plenty of them taking the piss out of him!

Then it was time for our last week at the hospital- it was typically quiet! Dawn signed me off and gave me some lovely comments, we had a little med student photo shoot at the hospital sign and then it was all over! Tuesday afternoon we went diving- 6 of us from the hostel, Ali, Kathryn,  Ian (an Irish firefighter), Flo (a German who is travelling the world) and Asa (an American who had sailed to Raro from Tahiti). It was lovely to dive without having to do skills and Ian had brought his underwater camera so there are plenty of photos to put up of us under the water. We did two great dives on the reef- the first had a wreck of a boat the company had sunk in the 90s and on that dive we heard whales! 

We had a great couple of evenings out in the final week- on Tuesday we went for a BBQ at the Shipwreck beach bar and on Thursday we went for a proper dinner at the Waterline restaurant as a big final night out for Ian who left on Thursday night, Ali who went on Friday and Kathryn, Asa, Flo and I leaving on the Sat.

Our last few days were wet, but it was also the first few days of the celebrations of independance. The parade through town on Friday was full of floats from lots of the outer islands and ministries. Thankfully we avoided being on the Ministry of Health float!

Thats all from Raro folks- next week California!

Love Jess x

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Week 6

And here it is- the final blog post written and posted from Rarotonga. Week 7 will be coming to you from sunny LA!

We had a great week for our penulitmate one on the island. After getting over the disappointment of not going to Aitutaki we booked diving for today and decided to make the most of the time we had left. The weather still wasn't great but we've done plenty with it!

Amy and I went black pearl shopping on Weds and came away with a black pearl pendant each which I am very pleased with. It took us a long time and lots of walking round town but we reckon we got a pretty good deal all in all. Then we rushed home to head out to Coco Putt for the third and final time- this time it was almost completely empty but for us and we took advantage of that, getting the owners to pour us extra strong drinks and dancing around like fools. My team won the mini golf with a minimum of cheating and it is suffice to say that we all felt a bit delicate on Thursday!

Friday saw us finally tackle the cross-island walk. It had been reasonably dry for the few days before but still we were slipping and sliding quite a bit on the steep muddy path. The 6 of us included Ali, Kathryn and I and then Katia a student nurse from Switzerland, Amy the med student from Leeds and Flo a german who is travelling around the world. I really enjoyed myself (apart from being eaten alive by mossies at the waterfall at the end) but then all out childhood holidays involved climbing mountains!

I'll leave the stories from the weekend to tell you next time else I'll run out of time on my internet card!

For the last time from Raro,
Kia Orana,
Love J xxxx

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Week 5

I sit here and can only marvel that I've only got 10 full days left on this island. I've settled into such a nice routine and I've got so used to being here I barely even notice the ubiquitous crowing of the roosters!

Week 5 turned out to be a bit of a wash out! Monday and Tuesday were quiet and nice weather, particularly quiet because the doctors were preparing for their big annual health conference at the end of the week. We went snorkelling (a bit of a let down after diving) and generally pottered about a bit. On Weds the conference started under heavy skies and Amy (the new elective student from Leeds Uni) spent the morning listening to a range of local and Kiwi presenters talk about the obesity crisis and various more and less viable ways of dealing with it. We escaped at lunch time to town where we looked at so many black pearls our heads were in a spin. The black pearls are one of the Cook Islands most prized products, they are produced in the lagoon of Manihiki which is little more than a circular sand bar or atoll in the northern islands supporting around 300 pearl farmers. The pearls are beautiful and range from $10 for a loose oddly shaped, blemished one to many thousands for a perfect large round one. I think I'll buy one before I leave as they are very much part of the islands.

After our grey day on Weds it proceeded to absolutely pour for 12 hours on Thursday (I went and sat in conference for the morning and got soaked through coming home) and pour all afternoon Friday, Saturday and be grey all day Sunday. We entertained ourselves by going to such delights as the little Whale and wildlife museum in town on Friday (1hrs worth of distraction) and watching a huge number of DVDs!

We did head out on Friday night and went for a really yummy dinner at one of the local restaurants in town- lots fo great fish and then some cocktails and dancing. We even ran into the teacher trainees we met doing our diving who were out celebrating their last night on the island.  It seems a lot of people are leaving- the body-boarders who had taken over the hostel headed off last night and the NZ uni holidays are over so the hostel is moving back to the international long term travellers again.

Unfortunately Aitutaki is off the cards- we tried this morning for deals one last time but it was simply too expensive to get there in the end. What that means is we're going to do a few things here we thought we couldn't afford instead like another dive trip with Kathryn once she finishes her open water and

Monday, 9 July 2012

Week 4

Week 4?! How on earth is it week 4 already?! I'm well over half-way now!

Week 4 went really well, though not quite to plan. The plan was to ring on Tuesday morning, get cheap flights and go to Aitutaki that afternoon. Sadly there were no cheap flights left for last week so Aitutaki is on hold untill we can find some (we'll try again today/tomorrow). Instead we had a quiet week up at the hospital- one of the Paeds consultants was over from the specialist Paeds hospital in Aukland (Starship- isn't that a great name for a children's hospital) to do a specialist clinic and give Dr Dawn a second opinion on a few kids. It ended up being quite quiet as lots of people didn't come in to see the specialist, but those who did were sorted out pretty fast. The week was enlightening as it confirmed my suspicions that despite being an excellent doctor, Dawn is limited by having worked only in Pacific Islands and mostly in the Cooks. She is confident enough with things she sees often but unusual things can throw her and it is very hard for her to keep up to date with the fast developing world of Paeds.

Instead of Aitukati Ali and I finished off our Open Water qualification on Thursday afternoon and Friday last week. Sadly one of the girls who had done the first part of the course with us couldn't complete it as she had developed a tummy bug just after the first dives and her friends took her to the hospital suspecting decompression sickness. Of course we had never been at any real risk of DCS but because she couldn't say no to all the things on the medical form any more she couldn't come diving :(. We had an exam, which both Ali and I got 100% on (apparently only the 4th and 5th people the instructor had seen do so in 800-900) and tried not to be too smug about it especially as the two teacher trainees failed to get the 75% pass mark first time. We got two more much longer Open Water dives and saw even more amazing fish, including some practically tame blue trigger fish who follow the dive boats looking to get fed. We even saw some juvenile Eagle Rays in the harbour while we did our 200m swim test. So now we can go diving anywhere in the world down to 18m with just a buddy- terrifying!

Kathryn arrived on Friday evening and has settled in and is enjoying the sunshine after Aukland's winter. We all went to church yesterday which everyone had told us is an experience we had to have, so we put on our Sunday best and headed to the local church to sit in the tourist section at the back. It was packed, and most of the service was in Cook Islands Maori but the singing was incredible- it was as powerful and emotional as I imagine Gospel worship to be and mostly done in Maori. Then they invited us all to lunch in the church hall where we discovered that many of the Ariki ( Tribal Chiefs) were there and being honoured. It was a lot of fun, if a bit bewildering. Friday had been a public holiday for the Ariki and the whole weekend  there were events to celebrate- they kept on pressing us to take left overs so we have lots of left over chicken now!!

My desire to do some good is still there, but I'm just not sure how to channel it- I need to discuss with Dawn about some child health leaflets- I get the impression they would be best if they were also in Maori so I'd need someone to translate.

Love, Jess xxx

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Week 3

I can't believe I'm almost halfway through my time here. I feel like there is so much more I want to do here and like I have hardly been away. The tan feels like the main thing to prove I've been away at so long. That and my new SCUBA knowledge.

We went diving this weekend with a few girls from Australia who are here as part of their teacher training course and ended up sharing the same frustrations about how the laid backness of the islanders is working against them and their kids. But more about diving, we did the first two days towards the PADI openwater course which allows you to dive anywhere in the world with a qualified buddy down to 12m. We spent the Saturday morning in the classroom watching DVDs and doing quizzes before getting in the pool to do some skills. It is incredible even just being in the little pool breathing underwater but Sunday was the best. On Sunday under leaden skys and drizzle we headed out on the dive boat and did 2 short dives out on the reef. It was incredible, down in a deep blue world seeing more fish than I could ever name and feeling like you were flying weightless. As a kid I always wanted to be a mermaid and diving feels as close as I can ever get. We're all ready to do our next two days to get the full qualification at the end of the week as this Friday is a bank holiday so normal clinics are off.

Up at the hopsital things continue much the same, but for a couple of days some doctors came up from NZ to teach the Advanced Paeds Life Support course to some of the local Drs and nurses which seemed to go down very well, they brought a young new Reg with them who is part Cook Islander so he could help out with Dr Dawn's clinics while she went to the course, though she had mostly blocked them out. I split my time between helping him out and having him teach me and sitting at the back of the course and dismaying at the local proffessionals lack of confidence in their answers. It was quite eye-opening to realise that most of the doctors here are scarcely more confident than UK juniors or med students despite (I assume) more training and they have no immediate back up.

Meeting the trainee Teachers has made me wonder about trying to sort out doing a little health education on the island, as the number of things that come up to the hospital needlessly and the ones that present too late can make you despair. Not sure what or how to go about it but I'll speak to Dr Dawn about maybe some parent info leaflets about things like coughs/colds/ tummy bugs etc and what is serious and what not. Or maybe some nutrition stuff to try and help some kids with healthier eating, as there is a lot of obesity on the island.

Over at the hostel we have had a farily quiet week- we went out on Weds to the mini golf again but it was much busier this time and there was even a limbo competition (surprisingly I didn't win). Other than that we did do any drinking as you're not to drink the night before or after diving.We did have to move to another part of the hostel as the main site was being taken over by a Kiwi school band for the weekend, no we don't know why either. So Ali and I were packed off to a little A frame down the road by the beach and the rest went up to the hillside site. The A frame was fine but sleeping up in the eves was so cold I had a hoody and my sweat pants on!

This week coming we are not off to Aitutaki as the flights were too expensive but we'll finish off our Open water and Kathryn arrives from NZ on Friday for the final 3 weeks.

The first batch of postcards went today but if you want one don't forget to message me!

Love J xxx

Monday, 25 June 2012

Week 2

I'm much more on time with Week 2's update :)

This past week has been great fun- we've done loads and it was my birthday! (Though I did get a bit homesick this week too). Up at the hospital I have been properly with the Paeds Dr, Dr Dawn who is lovely and is letting me help out as much as I can which is great. Mostly it has been little kids with chest infections/ bronchiolitis but we also look after the neonates and do all the post natal checks so there are plenty of cute little Cook Island babies for me to coo at! We even had a couple of C sections last week.

At the backpackers we've had a few new additions- some Kiwi surfers who have been a number of times before and have taught us how to pick the best coconuts and get into them! We all headed out to town on Thursday for an Island Night at one of the restaurants and it was amazing, drum music and trbal dancing from little kids right up to the adults. They even got Ali and Alex up on stage so I have some pretty good photos of them making a fool of themselves. We then headed out for a drink and a dance and were quickly over run with guys off the Kiwi Navy boat which was stationed here on tour. One of them tried the chat up line "Do you watch League?" meaning rugby league and got very offended when I told him I prefered rugby union. Another asked Ali and one of the other guys if they could please dace with their girlfriends which got them laughed at too.

For my birthday I finally opened the cards I had brought with me from David and Pam and found some great photos of DH and I inside to keep with me for my trip. After an afternoon getting a tan we went to one of the beachside bars and had cocktails at sunset before heading back for some (very) cheap fizz, dinner and crispy cake. All in all a pretty good birthday for being so far from home.

This weekend we have been adventurous and hired snorkels and gone snorkelling over at one of the posh hotels and we saw lots and lots of fish there. Sunday we decided to take a hike up one of the hills here and headed up the one behind the backpackers. Its only 300 odd m high but coming from sea level that is plenty to give you some incredible views. The track was pretty overgrown and steep in places but it comes out on a high plateau with just bracken on it and you can see all around.

We've booked to do our PADI Scuba cert for next weekend (at a big discount on the advertised price) for much less than it would cost in the UK and have the option to go on to do the PADI openwater if we enjoy it by just paying the difference. We're also planning a trip to Aitutaki one of the outer islands as we've been told about so $100 flights and told we can stay at the hospital accomodation for free so hopefully we can arrange that.

Love J xxxx
p.s. my postcard offer still stands!

Thursday, 21 June 2012

Week 1

Sunday 10th Ali and I boarded the plane in Heathrow and 26hrs later stumbled out into dawn in Rarotonga. We had a stop in the worlds most confusing and underwhelming airport LAX on the way but had otherwise been looked after by the lovely people of AirNZ. The flights were as good as such long flghts ever could be.

Monday saw us confusedly get our bearings on Rarotonga, hiring bikes, buying food and tackling the incredbly steep hill up to the hospital for the first time. Only to come straight back down again to spend the afternoon on the beach- Dr Voi our contact at the hospital told us we could have the afternoon off.

The hostel- Rarotonga backpackers is nice and clean enough though you can't keep the bugs and geckos out and the place cool so we share it with a lot of mozzies come evening. Luckily none in our room- I have been bitten plenty sat out on the deck in the evenings.One of the doctors told me to put toothpaste on itchy bites and though I look pretty mad it seems to work! We're on the southwestern corner of the island and right on the beach so the sunsets are beautiful and right outside our door. The people staying have been great, we met two med students Alex and Cat who are here on elective. Cat has headed home now but Alex will be here the whole time we are and is great fun. There are plenty of other travellers here too, mostly people in their late 20s taking time to travel the world and our evenings are spent telling tales on the deck.

The hospital itself sits high up the side of a hill on the Northwestern corner, about 20 mins of cycling and walking uphill from the hostel. It consists of a number of long low buildings and the wards have been newly refurbished and are modern despite the old outpatients clinc areas. They have most of the basics, but still rely on sending patients to New Zealand for anything complex. There are very few doctors here, one surgeon, one paedatrician, one O&G specialist, and they are on call 24/7 as they are the only ones on the island. Outpatients is staffed by a number of doctors so there is one there 24/7 and people come up to be seen on a first come first served basis, mostly with complaints we'd go to the GP for. Ali is working with the surgeon and I have split my time between the Outpatients and Paeds departments. I think I'll spend a couple of weeks with Paeds before trying to move on to Medicine. Everything is quiet here though so we have had most afternoons off to sun ourselves!

We've had one taste of the night life here- on our first Weds we went to Coco-putt a mini golf and bar place. The guy came to pick us up from the hostel and gave us a drink for the road. We had a burger and then went on to play mini golf in our random teams, my team came 4th but Ali and Cat came 2nd and they gave us all a drink as a prize. After dancing at the bar we got a lift round to town and spent an hour or two in the club with the locals before being brought back. It was a great night- and really cheap as the host at the mini golf seemed to take a liking to our group and bought us a couple of rounds and got us into the club for free.

If anyone would like a postcard, drop me an email with your address!

Jess xx

Friday, 15 June 2012

Minty Green Medic goes on Elective

Hello Folks!

An awful lot has happened since I unceremoniously stopped blogging 6 weeks before my boat race last year. For one I stroked the Lwts to victory and now count my boat as some of my closest friends- we still enjoy meeting up to eat. A whole year of clinical school has been and gone and I write to you now as a final year medical student!

I'm resurrecting the blog because on the 10th of June I left David, Cambridge and the UK far behind and got on a flight to the Cook Islands for my medical elective. We are given 10 weeks and told we must do 7 weeks of work, and that we can go anywhere in the world to do it. The idea is we experience medicine being practised in its many varied forms across the world, and can bring new experience back to our final year.

It's now coming to the end of Week 1 here on Rarotonga (the largest and main Cook Island) and I am writing in a spare moment before the Paeds clinic really gets going. I hope to write once a week, but sadly I'll have to save my pictures for when I return- the internet is still dial up here and can't really cope with pictures being uploaded!

With sunny thoughts for you all,
Jess x