Medical Skills… Kitchen?

With our second-year exams well and truly over, this week we had been timetabled several sessions entitled ‘Medical Skills Kitchen.’ I’m sure I wasn’t the only one who was slightly confused by this in the first instance. This confusion further increased when we received an email informing us that we would require two potatoes, two carrots, two bananas and one courgette to take part in these sessions as well as telling us to pick up a ‘kit’ after our last exam. However, when I actually read the session description in full, this confusion was soon replaced by excitement.

The ‘Medical Skills Kitchen’ is a course co-created by medical and culinary professionals enabling us to develop our practical skills, in preparation for third year, from the comfort of our own kitchens. Alongside medical knowledge practical skills are a fundamental part of medicine. Whether it be taking bloods, placing cannulas or performing surgeries, a certain selection of practical techniques is within the remit of every clinician. However, throughout our academic lives so far, we have had far less opportunity to develop our practical skills than our theoretical knowledge. Hence, these sessions were designed to give us opportunity to start developing our manual dexterity which we can later apply and hone in a clinical setting.

The broad aims of these sessions were to get us to learn a new skill, take time to practice it and then simultaneously perform and explain the skill to an assigned classmate who would be marking us. This was to simulate the pressure that is inherent to undertaking a procedure on a patient whilst needing to maintain conversation with them at the same time.

Our first task was ‘turning vegetables’ which in our case included courgette, potatoes and carrots. The kits we were provided included two types of knives, a peeler and gloves so all we needed to source ourselves was the vegetables. During this session and the subsequent debrief we were encouraged to seek parallels between techniques used in the hospital and the kitchen. These were easier to come by than may be immediately apparent. In the kitchen we learnt to work in a clean and hygienic manner akin to the aseptic technique we adopt in hospital. We needed to adapt the force we used depending on whether we were turning courgette or carrot due to the intrinsic hardness of the vegetable. Similarly, in medicine the force you use needs to differ depending on whether you are administering e.g. an intramuscular or subcutaneous injection.

Our next session was based on suturing (or stitching) which is a fundamental basic medical skill. However, for the purpose of practice, our patient was a banana. The kits we collected also contained a suture kit complete with a needle holder, scissors and two types of forceps as well as a couple of packs of suture material. We had been sent a video tutorial outlining the procedure and the aims of this session were the same as the last- to learn the skill, practice it and then perform to a peer. It took me a few goes to get the hang of it, but soon enough I could feel myself getting more confident handling the needle holder and forceps. By the end of the session, if you ask me, I’d say the banana survived.

Overall, I found these sessions to be an incredibly fun and interactive way of getting us to start developing our practical skills. They also made us realise that many of the principles we value in medicine are not unique but can be found in many other disciplines, albeit they may manifest themselves differently. The ‘Medical Skills Kitchen’ just provides yet another example of how Imperial is committed to innovate in order to best equip its students with the skills they need for the future.

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