Two perspectives on medical schools in Malta 

A student and a doctor describe their experiences working in a Malta medical school

 

As a medical student in Malta, you’ll regularly undertake clinical placements, gaining hands-on experience on the hospital floor. This might seem nerve-wracking for students starting out, but our expert teaches are on hand to help. Dr Robert Sciberras, Lead Clinician at Gozo General Hospital, and student Jonathan Morris to share two sides of the story. Step this way to find out just what it’s like inside our medical school in Malta…

Third-year student Jonathan Morris says clinical placements are essential for getting up-close experience

What kind of things do you learn on placements?

At first, you’re mainly observing, but by the third year you’ll have ticked several things off, like taking blood, doing cannulations and catheterisations.

How are placements beneficial?

It’s all about moving away from your comfy library and textbooks, being thrust into an unfamiliar environment and having to adapt. You can’t learn any other way.

Is it scary being put on the spot?

Nerve-wracking! You don’t want to make mistakes in front of patients, but you’re encouraged to have a go. Some doctors, like Dr Scibirras, will set overnight homework on your errors that you present next day to ensure you get it right.

Any tricky moments?

One patient needed calming about an impending operation; it was useful to see how the doctor made a worrying situation more manageable. Sometimes I have language barriers with the older population because I don’t speak much Maltese. People are kind, though.

What approaches have you admired?

Dr Sciberras sees his patients every single day; that’s rare. At the very least he says ‘hello’. To touch base makes a big difference. How does he do it? He walks at quite a speed!

Highs and lows?

A high might be the first time you take blood or do an examination and it goes well and you think: everything I’ve learned is coming together. The lows are when things don’t go quite right. But there’s always the opportunity to have another go.

Lead Clinician at Gozo General Hospital Dr Robert Sciberras rewards hard work

What kind of things do you learn on placements?

The first thing to point out is that I really appreciate students who are keen to learn. Get that right and you enter a partnership. So, the first two years are about teamwork. In the third and fourth you’ll begin to see patients and understand why they are on the ward. In the fifth year, you are almost ready to get out there and be put on the spot.

How are they beneficial?

It’s all about having contact with patients – taking histories, doing examinations, then coming back with ideas. It’s also a valuable chance to understand that everyone on the ward is important, from consultant to cleaner.

Dr Robert Sciberras teaching students at Queen Mary Malta.

What is your individual approach?

You need to sound confident as a doctor, public speaking is a big part of things, so I give students assessments. They have one night to learn a topic then present it next day on the wards, with confidence. Another fun trick is when I ask students to look at a patient’s bedside table – you learn a lot!

 Highs and lows?

I love it when my students go on to become local doctors here. I was teaching a dentist on a month-long placement who was learning medicine to be a maxillofacial doctor. I told him he needed an ‘A’ – he decided to stay for six months and got it! There aren’t many lows – ward rounds take twice the time with students!

 Any advice?

The more energetic you are, the higher my level of teaching. Make sure you’re here because you love learning.