My Trauma and Orthopaedics placement has been thoroughly enjoyable (and intense occasionally). I have learnt that interpreting radiographs is a skill that is incredibly useful for all specialties, as imaging scans really do form the cornerstone of prognosis and management when a history and examination do not yield useful information.
As I have witnessed fractures in a range of age groups, it is also particularly useful to know the types of fractures that commonly affect the young and elderly. Having been asked to describe fractures on radiographs, it is beneficial to have a system for describing the fracture (this can include comments about site, shape, level of displacement and possible damage to adjacent structures). An understanding of regional anatomy is essential when considering potential complications of the fracture and eventually, treatment.
I have also had a chance to practice history taking with patients, which has enabled me to understand the most important questions to ask in an orthopaedic history. Assessing the functional status of a patient before possible surgical intervention is imperative, as it forms a benchmark for comparison to the post-operative status of the patient. I have also realised that patients harbour radically different expectations from treatment, so informing the patients of all the possible treatment alternatives is essential.
Assisting with suturing in the operating theatre was also a novel experience for me, and reinforced the fact that it is a skill that needs to be practiced to be perfected. This placement has helped me revise musculoskeletal teaching from first year, and has taught me new information in a clinical context. Seeing patients helps bring textbook signs to life, and it really cements the importance of a thorough examination to elicit these signs. I have also started to appreciate the value of obtaining a comprehensive history, which may limit more invasive investigations for the patient.