Trip to King's College London

Date: February 10, 2012

School of Medicine, College of Medicine, Student, Tzu-I Wu
Editor, General Education Center, Associate Professor Beryl Ching-Hwa Lee

When I first set foot in the court yards of King’s College London, I was amazed by its ability to sustain an academic atmosphere in the middle of a bustling area. Located just beside the London Bridge Station, where trains, underground transport, and buses converge to form a busy and crowded corner in the south of the river Thames, the college miraculously sustains an upbeat but quiet studying garden for its students.

On the first day, we international students were greeted with great enthusiasm by Mr. Owain Evans, the Elective & Exchanges Coordinator. He gave us a little introductive orientation, and took us to look around the college, which comprises of five buildings. Then in the afternoon, each of us was given a map of the hospitals which offered us the elective program. After that, we were sent off to report to our supervising consultants. I wasn’t lucky enough to meet Mrs. Harrison-Phipps, who was my supervising doctor for the four weeks of my stay in Guy’s Hospital, which is located just beside King’s College near London Bridge Station. I did meet the senior officer of the house, Silvie, who is an Italian lady specialized in thoracic surgery for over seven years, and Cheng-wee, an African girl in her foundation year two (FY2) of her doctoral training.  They are the ones who usually stay in the ward to look after the post-surgery patients. I was given a mini tour and soon I started to follow Cheng-wee to look around.

Unlike in Taiwan, the ward is not designed to accomodate four persons. Instead, it is a large hall with many beds separated by curtains. When compared with China Medical University Hospital in Taichung, the layout is more like what we see in the Emergency Department in Taiwan except that it is more spacious. I was told later that most of the hospitals under the British National Health Service (NHS, an organization like the National Health Insurance in Taiwan) have similar design. There are a few single rooms in the hospital, however. But they are for infectious patients who need to be quarantined. “This hospital is for people who do not want to spend a lot of money,” says Cheng-wee, during a coffee break in the morning that she managed to spare for herself, “Those people who do not care the cost will head into one of those private hospitals, and can be happy about the quality of the hospital hardware there.” Private hospitals are not a rare occurrence in London, England; in fact, just across the street of Guy’s hospital, there is a private hospital called London Bridge Hospital. It is not as big as Guy’s. Actually, when I first walked by its front gates, I was under a mistaken impression that it was a hotel.

“The staffs in hospitals working with NHS keep changing.” Silvie, the senior officer of the house, or a fellow in American health system, answered when I asked her the difference between an NHS hospital and a private hospital. “People come and go, for various reasons. Some may come for knowledge and practice because of the number of patients we have; some may come for qualifications or simply for seniority; and the others are here because we have some specialties that the nearby hospitals do not have. But most of us stay here only for a short term. Even consultants come and go at a higher rate than usual.”

“But,” she added, “this is not the case in private hospitals. As you can imagine, private hospitals need to provide patients with higher quality services, so naturally they only hire doctors who can provide resumes of good profiles. And these doctors are usually in their late forties and fifties and probably have a house and a family to support. But the situation in our hospital is totally different.”

My supervising consultant, however, is an exception. Mrs. Harrison-Phipps has been in Guy’s hospital for many years, and she has no intentions to move to anywhere else. She likes the atmosphere of the department and thinks the patient number here is just right for her. “I think the type of people you work with is really a big factor when it comes to making a decision whether to move or stay,” says Mrs. Harrison-Phipps, “you make friends and foes along the way, but you’ll find out whether this place is friendly or not, and if it is, you’ll be more inclined to keep working here.” 

The trip to London also impressed me by the good relationship of such dyads as patient-care giver, doctor-nurses, surgeons-medical doctors, and student-patient. They were friendly towards each other, and rarely showed signs of impatience even if they were behind a tight schedule. What especially surprised me is the patient-doctor relationships. Due to the system of NHS, patients have to wait for a long time before they are scheduled into the operation rooms. I wonder whether the long wait makes them more humble and more willingly to listen to the doctors. In Taiwan, the situation seems to be very different.

All in all, from the trip to London, I learn England has a good medical environment like Taiwan; however, it is more advanced and mature. More importantly, the patients who come to the hospitals such as King’s College Guy’s Hospital understand why they come here and what the doctors can provide. I personally think it is a more reasonable system to work with.

(Chinese Version.)


Me in front of the Guy’s hospital
King’s College London