Connected Conversations | Kate Sharley

The ‘new normal’ is here as many of us continue to work and learn from home. Limited face-to-face teaching has commenced but campus life as we once knew it is still a little way off. Today, we launch our second series of Connected Conversations with sixth year medical student, Kate Sharley. We recently chatted with Kate about how she’s adapted to the learning online; if she’s feeling more (or less) productive and what it’s like being back on placement.

Kate Sharley

Tell us a little bit about yourself.

Hey! My name is Kate and I’m a medical student currently in my sixth and final year. I’ve really enjoyed my medical school training with the University. In my fifth year I was lucky enough to go to rural South Australia for my placements; I lived in Whyalla, Roxby Downs and Port Augusta where I learnt important skills with a hands-on approach in local hospitals and medical practices. What I loved most about this experience was living in the community, feeling like a local and playing in the country sporting leagues. I have now moved back to live with my mum and dad in Netherby but hope to move out again next year when I am in the workforce. I’m looking forward to 2021 as it will be my first year as a junior doctor. It feels a bit daunting but there’s great comradery between my peers and across the year levels, which makes me feel well supported. In my preclinical years of medical school, I was inspired to participate in some of the extra-curricular rural health opportunities that organisations and student run groups were offering. I was lucky enough to attend the Yalata Kidney Health festival in my third year of medicine, to visit the APY Lands through a program called the AMSS APY Exchange in my fourth year and to also go on an outreach trip to Alice Springs through a student group called Insight. These experiences encouraged me to try to arrange some formal cultural awareness training prior to going on trips such as these, so that students are able to get more out of the experience. In conjunction with the University, I was able to run a cultural awareness workshop which was open to all medical and allied health students going on these sorts of trips, prior to their departure to develop their cultural skills, hopefully allowing them to get more out of their time in these remote communities and to be able to provide a more culturally appropriate service. In my fourth year of medicine I was elected to run the Yalata Kidney Health Festival along with a colleague; this was the program I had enjoyed so thoroughly the year prior. This was a great opportunity and it was great to visit Yalata again and develop the relationship with the community, as well as help to provide the opportunity for other medical and allied health students to have this experience too. We built upon the foundations which had been made by our predecessors and developed the relationship with the local health service, community and school to enhance not only the experience of the students visiting but hopefully also benefiting the community by providing education and support in the school and health centre. I have remained involved with this program, mentoring the next pair of program coordinators in the planning of their trip last year. In 2019, I was incredibly proud to be awarded the Rural Doctors Association of Australia Medical Student of the Year Award in recognition of my efforts during my time at University. I’ve been honoured to help foster these student run programs along with my peers and see these continue, allowing more students to have such opportunities.

How have you adapted to learning online?

At times I have found our weekly online tutorials a little challenging as I prefer to work through problems and new concepts with my peers, not just by myself. We do have discussion board activities which is a step towards a more collaborative approach... but nothing replaces face-to-face dynamic conversation when working through new topics. The switch to online learning has, however, provided materials I might not have otherwise engaged with including short videos, podcasts, interactive websites and learning modules. Also, online learning can be from anywhere at any time! A small group of fellow sixth year medical students and myself are coordinators of a student mentoring program for third year medical students called ‘ClinPrac’. This program normally involves running hands-on sessions with the third year students to improve their practical skills. Changing this to an online format has meant that we’ve had to restructure this program, but it is going really well over Zoom with breakout rooms and roving tutors between virtual rooms. It’s great that in this new format we are able to provide this teaching to more students who might not have been able to make the session out of hours in person.

Tell us a little about being on clinic or placement …

I’m currently on placement at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital Emergency Department (ED). This is a three month placement which is longer than normal, but I feel very lucky to be on this rotation. I’m seeing some really interesting cases and having the chance to get involved in each patient’s care and have lots of support from the doctors and nurses working in the ED. I feel I can ask lots of questions; even the silly ones! I hope that this placement is preparing me for my future work as a junior doctor. I am developing my skills in patient care, diagnostic reasoning and also professional communication between the members of the team. Some things have changed in the ED, there are limitations on visitors which can be very challenging for patients. In general, many patients are also more afraid of being in hospital at the moment and this adds another challenge to making sure they receive the medical treatment that would benefit them most. Luckily, COVID-19 hasn’t had too much impact on my learning within the ED and this is great as it allows me to continue to improve my skills. Being on placement for longer than normal also means that I feel that I am a more valuable member of the team, as I have learnt more about how the unit runs and have got to know the supervisors and other colleagues better than I otherwise would.

Have you felt any pressure to make this time ‘more’ productive?

I’ve certainly felt some pressure to do so as I have more time on my hands. In the absence of organised sport, I have tried to stay fit during this time with running which is something I haven’t previously been very into. I have the app Strava where you follow your friends and they follow you and you give each other ‘kudos’ on your activities. This is a really supportive platform but now I’m not sure if I’m running for fitness or just for a Strava presence and the ‘kudos’ but I’m enjoying it all the same!

Have you started any new rituals?

Quiz nights! My friends have written their own quizzes and presented them over Zoom. The only issue is my lack of general knowledge is very much exposed without a team on my side!

Quick fire questions!

Getting dressed for work or staying in pj’s?

Staying in my PJs at home! You never know when you might need a lunchtime nap.

Needing colleagues to bounce ideas off of or loving the quiet to get into the zone?

Need colleagues for motivation to get started but probably more productive in the zone once I’ve got started.

Baking your own sourdough or eating what’s left in the freezer?

Trying to learn to bake but accidentally using cumin instead of cinnamon in my banana cake so relying on the freezer anyway.

Scheduled vs unscheduled?

The great to do list! Flexible around outdoor activities.

Good weather makes it easier working from home or bad weather?

Mix of both! Ideally morning sunshine to help me get up and go outside for a walk or run, then the clouds can roll in when getting study done in the afternoon, with rain to fall asleep to. Is this too much to ask?

Name three things you won’t miss about this current moment in time.

The uncertainty of the times ahead.

The sports report not actually reporting any sport.

My banana cake with cumin in it :(

And the three things you won’t forget…

The huge impact of COVID-19 on every single person’s life.

The extent of restrictions on people and the impressive compliance with such measures.

My banana cake with cumin in it :(

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