A doctor and student explain our medical placements

Gain as much hands-on experience as possible before donning your white coat

At Queen Mary, Malta Campus, students are given hands-on hospital experience from the very start. Not only is this a great way to acclimatise to the challenges of medicine, but it helps students discover what type of doctor you want to become. Problem-based learning, aided through early patient contact, and early clinical skills are the hallmarks of our degree.

Students will embark on Clinical Placements in Malta’s major hospitals, including Gozo General Hospital, Mater Dei Hospital, Mount Carmel Hospital, St Luke’s Hospital, and Karin Grech Hospital. Ananya Dahagan is one of them, watched over by Patrick Galea, Clinical Senior Lecturer in Primary Care.

Third-year student Ananya Dahagan says clinical placements help you sharpen your skills.

Being on placement is so rewarding, especially in third year and beyond. The jump from the more lecture-based years (1 and 2) to the clinical years is daunting, but being in placement allows you to bridge that gap. I was able to see my clinical knowledge in practice. You’re also getting to see what jobs are like around the hospital, you’re exploring the different pathways that you could take in life, and it’s really cool to see which specialties call out to you.

One of the best things about being around the hospital is when patients get excited to talk to you. It’s so sweet when they share their stories. It gives us the opportunity to subtly sharpen our history-taking skills while the patient gets to talk to someone and express their concerns. It really improves our bedside manner and is super useful when it comes to OSCE (Objective Structured Clinical Examination) exams.

It’s also very interesting that placements allow you to see pathology. In the first two years, we’re practicing examinations on our peers, who are more-or-less pretty healthy. It’s rewarding to be given the chance to practice our clinical examinations on patients who have abnormal findings that we’ve only ever read about.

Since we’re at the very beginning of our journeys in the hospital, sometimes you can feel overlooked. I do think this is true of most jobs, but I’ve found that it’s at times like these where it is important to be proactive and take the extra time to sharpen our observational skills or think of questions that we might want to ask the clinicians later.

Clinical Senior Lecturer in Primary Care Patrick Galea says medical placements can be both deeply affecting and rewarding

Queen Mary, Malta’s MBBS Programme is unique in that it exposes students to patient contact from the start. From their first weeks in Gozo, students can engage directly with patients and experience the impact of illness on the individual and their families, no matter their socioeconomic background.

The patient-physician relationship is sometimes seen as one-sided. Doctors possess the medical knowledge and patients need their help and guidance with health issues. But doctors must learn from their patients if they are to realise medicine’s foundational principle, which is to enter caring partnerships that prioritise basic human dignity, respect, as well as kind and compassionate care.

Dr Robert Sciberras teaching students at Queen Mary Malta.

All clinical tutors and lecturers are thoroughly trained to support our students. We offer a privileged dynamic between staff and students, ensuring timely and regular feedback during each module, allowing us to modify our curriculum and teaching methods according to each individual’s needs. We monitor their progress and support them both in their academic as personal lives here in Malta.

At Queen Mary, Malta, we highly value our continuous pattern of assessments. This includes regular assignments, clinical logbook updates, and tutorials with clinical tutors to assesses not only academic skills but also cognitive, psychomotor, and affective domains. We use all this to provide bespoke teachings to enhance student performance. It’s why the students will always find us running after them for the famous feedback forms.

Our clinical placements emphasise autonomy and decision-making from the start. This prepares students for their Foundation Year that follows. By engaging with patients and participating in clinical decision-making, students are well-prepared and supported, even if they initially feel anxious or under pressure. By the fifth year, students can confidently work in the clinic on their own as a rehearsal for the Foundation Programme.