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A guide to… Obstetrics and Gynaecology

Senior House Officer Dr Grace Neville provides some top tips on choosing Obs and Gynae as a specialty

Hopping out of bed, I pull my hair into a messy bun, search out some clean, respectable-looking clothes and scramble downstairs for a quick bite to eat. I grab my trusty tools – bleep, stethoscope, patient list and pen and rush to work for an early ward round. Just as I am about to slam the front door shut I am stopped in my tracks by the sudden realisation that I am on call yet again! Whispering profanities under my breath, I run back to my room – must bring scrubs, snacks, toiletries and a phone charger to get through the next 32 or so hours.

How quickly the rhythm of life changes from being a student to being an intern

How quickly the rhythm of life changes from being a student to being an intern – in a matter of days, the five years of student life becomes relegated and romanticised into hazy memory!

When I was a student I could take the time to co-ordinate an outfit, stroll to a ward round, fall into the back of the litter of white coats ten minutes late and no-one would notice (or so I thought). Yet now, I am rushing to the ward early to organise the charts before the rest of the team members even arrive.

When I was a student, no-one held me responsible for a delayed scan, a leaking cannula, or a missing chart. Often as a junior doctor you feel the failings of an entire health system somehow come to rest on your shoulders! But would I swap my life now for my life as a medical student? Never! Yes, life as an NCHD can be busy and challenging but it is also interesting, fast-paced, fun, educational, humbling, moving and above all else full of hope for our careers and our futures.

For interns, the days fly by in a haze of admissions, discharges, consults, organising scans, ABGs, ECGs, cannulas and catheter insertions. Some interns love their current rotation and begin to imagine a future in it, some are turned off certain specialties forever, and a lucky few start the year knowing what they want and end the year equally as convinced of their commitment to their chosen specialty.
A lucky few start the year knowing what they want and end the year equally as convinced

I always had an inkling that I liked obstetrics and gynaecology and envisaged a career in it. I chose to use my internship as an opportunity to explore other options and vowed that for one year at least, I would keep an open mind and approach each rotation with enthusiasm as if it were “the one”. But as time passed, I became more and more certain. I began to see each rotation as an opportunity to hone my knowledge on how different specialties impacted on the obstetric patient as well as being an opportunity to familiarise myself with the day-to-day practicalities of the job. The overlap and need for multidisciplinary approach in management of the complex obstetric patient is enormous.

I would advise anyone interested in obstetrics and gynaecology to use their time as interns to experience medical and surgical teams’ interaction with the obstetrics team – cardiologists, gastroenterologists, haematologists, endocrinologists, psychiatrists – to name but a few, are often called upon to help with obstetric management and are usually only too pleased to allow interested interns insight into their work.

Balancing work and study can be challenging, of course, but can definitely be achieved with some forward-planning (and plenty of plans for post-exam rewards!)

For those interns unfortunate enough to not have an obstetric rotation during the year (myself included), obstetricians and gynaecologists are usually happy to involve interested interns in research, audit or even just to shadow colleagues on a typical day in the maternity. The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists allow you to sit Part 1 of the MRCOG in your first SHO year. The exam gives a great focus to those interested in obstetrics and gynaecology and thankfully can be repeated if unsuccessful.

Balancing work and study can be challenging, of course, but can definitely be achieved with some forward-planning (and plenty of plans for post-exam rewards!). Incidentally, the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists and Institute of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Ireland both have excellent websites well worth checking out, especially prior to interviews.

Most of us have little experience of interviews but just like final year, advance preparation certainly improves performance and calms jittery nerves! Regardless of where you envisage your career taking you, the basic premise is the same – talk to those in the years ahead of you, keep an open mind on where you are going and what you want to achieve and above all else, enjoy yourself! Good luck.

Dr Neville is a Senior House Officer in Obstetrics and Gynaecology at Cork University Hospital.

4 comments
  • By Bobby Saint on 11 October 2017 11:11 Good read. I totally agree that it is sometimes difficult to balance work and study, but the rewards you get surely outweigh the hardships. If I were a student and intern at the same time, I would definitely take on these challenges and make the most out of the opportunities given to me.
  • By William Jack on 17 October 2016 08:01 Great
  • By Annie on 21 December 2015 04:22

    That is good that there are doctors that specialize in obstetric cases. I would agree that getting a doctor that you feel comfortable with is a good idea, especially if you are nervous! Its interesting that there is such a growing need for obstetric doctors! Thank you for sharing!

  • By Joel on 10 November 2015 02:36 That's interesting. I didn't realize that there was such a heavy demand on interns in obstetrics. A friend of mine is going to school for a similar field. I'll have to show her a copy of this post. Thanks for sharing!
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