Just what the doctor ordered

Diagnosing ailments and even keyhole surgery were on the agenda when Classroom Medics paid a visit to a Shropshire school, writes Greg Rees

Sixth-form students at an independent Shropshire school have benefitted from interactive sessions using real medical equipment to boost their studies. Concord College in Shrewsbury engaged the clinical skills workshop by educational company Classroom Medics, which is made up of hands-on sessions designed to both broaden student knowledge in relation to their exams and help strengthen their skill base for medical school applications.

Over three weekly sessions the upper-sixth students (who are all aspiring doctors, dentists or vets) gained clinical testing experience to prepare them for potential careers in healthcare and link their theoretical knowledge with practical skills. They performed a number of physiological assessments with the Classroom Medics team that are typically used in a professional medical situation. By measuring their own physiology – to understand the effects of various conditions – they were then able to make educated physiological observations.

Concord’s biology teacher Matt Rawlinson, who helped organise the Classroom Medics visit, explains: “Nothing beats hands on experience and the workshops really helped out students apply their current knowledge to practical situations and harness their abilities to use theoretical data in real-life situations. They enjoyed taking blood from a fake arm, doing ultrasound scans on each other and clearing airways, plus it was fascinating to be able to observe retinas and ear drums up close.

“The students practised dexterous surgical skills by carrying out a keyhole operation via a monitor, while a particular highlight was Stan the six-foot-tall patient simulator, who presents different scenarios for trainee doctors to work on. Many of our students were successful in assessing Stan and diagnosing his aliments before prescribing the treatment he should theoretically receive – and based on what I’ve seen during these innovative sessions, the continuing development of medicine is in safe hands.”

Student Celine Goh says: “The best part for me too was trying to diagnose what condition Stan suffered from – Stan being the breathing, blinking, talking dummy, who had a heart beat and would even scream in pain if you pressed on the wrong part of his abdomen. It was certainly a worthwhile experience being able to step into the shoes of a doctor and familiarise ourselves with the procedure of diagnosing and treating a patient.”

Fellow student Venkata Batta says: “It was both fun and educational. We covered multiple topics ranging from basics like measuring blood pressure and lung volume to more unusual things like photographing the human retina with an iPhone. All in all, the Classroom Medics teachers were great and we obtained a lot of important information we can use in the future. I would suggest that every aspiring medic or vet should try this class.”

Student Teenie Wong adds: “Being able to use professional medical equipment in a proper clinical workshop like this gave us an amazing opportunity to experience what medical school would really be like. This is something you cannot experience by simply reading books and this hands-on experience has made me even more convinced about my choice, my career for life – medicine.”

Classroom Medics founder Tom Warrender says: “It was a very gratifying set of sessions for us too. The Concord College students were all fully focused and attentive and really excited about having a go themselves – and that’s what we’re all about: how to positively engage pupils in science subjects so they consider taking their STEM studies further.

“They tried their hand at recording an ECG of their heart using an electrocardiogram (comparing them to abnormal ECG traces that can occur with heart disease) and also examined and treated Stan our lifelike patient simulator whilst he had a heart attack to see how quickly he deteriorated. Then the students all had a go at keyhole surgery using some of the tools that would be used to repair an artery or used in heart surgery.

“They took pictures of the blood vessels in their retina with an iPhone connected to an ophthalmoscope (these are the ones that can be affected by diabetes when left untreated) and also wore special pathology goggles to experience what it is like to have cataracts, diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma, tunnel vision and partial blindness.

“By imaging the carotid artery in their necks on a computer screen they were able to measure the blood flow speed and compare it with those affected by fatty diets, plus by using a spirometer they discovered their lung age and saw how it can be affected by smoking and respiratory conditions.

“Stan is always very fascinating for students, but the Concord College medics also enjoyed using a real needle to take fake blood from Andy, the phlebotomy arm, and practised incubating on Eddy the Head to help him breath.

“We pack our medical skills and careers workshops with things you can’t normally do in the classroom and make sure there is an actual applied link to science and a career. We illustrate the many and varied jobs in the healthcare science sector (as well as those available via med school) and show students how they can get into these careers – even with lower than expected grades.

“Additionally, I have put together 40 free posters that can be accessed and put up in your classroom or lab. Each poster highlights a different career within healthcare science and includes information on what the job entails, how much it pays and a typical entry route into that career. You can access the posters for free at https://classroommedics.co.uk/iet