Lung Transplant Unit, The Alfred Hospital, Melbourne

I completed my medical elective over January 2019 at the Alfred Hospital in Melbourne attached to the Lung Transplant Unit. The Lung Transplant Unit at the Alfred Hospital service patients from Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania. The unit conducts approximately 200 transplants per year. This was an incredible and unique experience that really was a once in a lifetime opportunity.

During my four-week rotation I attended pre and post Lung Transplant, Pulmonary hypertension, and Sleep & Respiratory medicine clinics. I attended ward rounds and assisted the ward team in various jobs. I observed and assisted in MET calls. I attended the unit’s meetings including the Transplant decision meetings and the multidisciplinary team meetings. I spent time observing the bronchoscopy lists. I assisted in a pleural tap and in a lumbar puncture. I was also fortunate enough to observe a lung transplant operation that was a 10-hour long procedure.

The junior doctors on the ward gave me short tutorials throughout the day in respiratory medicine and infectious disease medicine. During clinics, I examined patients and the respiratory consultants took the time to teach me about the various respiratory conditions and the relevant investigative tests. At the end of each day, I would research conditions that I had seen and their management, which gave me a greater understanding and insight, and subsequently sparked a series of questions to follow up on with the team in the morning.

My encounters with both the medical team and the allied health team associated with the Lung Transplant Unit were incredibly positive. All staff conducted themselves in a very friendly, yet professional manner. I thoroughly enjoyed my time at the Alfred Hospital with this unit. I feel I have learnt more about respiratory medicine in general and the medical complexities surrounding transplant patients. This experience has also encouraged me to take more initiative when assisting a team, and volunteering myself for jobs in order to be of service to the team. I have further developed my teamwork and communication skills.

It has been a pleasure to observe the different communication styles of the lung transplant and respiratory consultants. Each had a very individual way of conveying highly emotive information to patients in a sensitive, yet accurate way. I have learnt a lot about the crucial importance of accurately informing patients about their care, in order to achieve the best health outcomes.

This placement has been a medically enriching experience as well as an emotionally sobering one. I have gained practical skills, medical knowledge, and a greater appreciation of the highs and lows associated with the medical profession.