Why Student Doctors are Becoming the New Champions of Social Prescribing
TODAY’S BLOG IS WRITTEN BY LUCIA LAZZERESCHI, STUDENT DOCTOR, SOUTHAMPTON SOCIAL PRESCRIBING CHAMPION 2017-2018 AND SOUTH EAST SOCIAL PRESCRIBING REGIONAL LEAD.
Embedding a holistic approach
Well, approaching medicine holistically is something that my professors and seminar leads have been preaching since the first day of my enrolment. Why would you not want to address every need the individual in front of you has to ensure that they feel better both physically and mentally? That is the crux of social prescribing.
Let’s say its Monday morning. You are a GP and Susie Smith has just come to see you. She has rheumatoid arthritis (RA) – a condition that causes pain and inflammation of the joints – which require frequent medication to alleviate pain; medication that has to be taken for the rest of her life, and might physically impact her day today. You explain all of this to Susie and then ask her if she has any questions for you.
She hesitates for a minute but, as you’ve built a rapport with her in the last few months, she tells you she’s worried about her job; she is a piano teacher after all. The medication may help her with the stiffness and the pain but she’ll definitely lose income and won’t be able to teach as many people as before. Furthermore, as RA is a chronic condition, it will probably make her tire more easily, so she’s also worried about the impact RA will have on both her overall well-being and her relationships with friends and family.
But what if part of this burden, and the patient’s worries, could be relieved by utilising projects and organisations that are already occurring in the community and offer the services Susie needs to improve her well-being?
OFFERING MORE THAN MEDICINE
So, when I first read about social prescribing when the medical student scheme first opened in 2017, I knew I had to get involved. It has been created to enable medical students to get involved in learning about, teaching, and promoting social prescribing in their region and I applied to represent the South East.
With medical schools having to cover anatomy, physiology, pathophysiology, pharmacology and a myriad of other medical topics that students will need to know before they become foundation doctors, it is completely understandable that not every disease, every drug and every single aspect of social and mental care can be covered in that timeframe. But that is why medical students across the country are advocating and spreading awareness of social prescribing.
Yes, social prescribing is not a substitute for medication or therapy but this should not make it any less important in medical school teaching. When you then add the fact that a fifth of patients going to general practice are there for social, not medical issues and that long-term conditions across the globe are rising in incidence, spreading awareness of social prescribing to medical students and surrounding communities really is pivotal to shape the doctors of tomorrow so that they are aware that they can help patients both medically and socially.
ADDING SOCIAL PRESCRIBING TO THE CLINICAL TOOLKIT
Bogdan Chiva Guirca, the medical student that founded the National Social Prescribing Scheme in 2017 explains what the aim of the scheme is by saying, “We want to empower the future generation of healthcare professionals to add social prescribing to their essential clinical toolkit.”
We might not be able to change every UK medical school’s curriculum just yet but our army of medical students, as part of the student social prescribing scheme, has implemented informal teaching on social prescribing in almost all medical schools. Furthermore, many medical schools have been really open to change and are pushing forward a collaboration with their respective medical student champions to make social prescribing a formal part of their curriculum.
Hopefully, soon, all UK medical students graduating will be aware of what social prescribing is and what the benefits of it are. Then, when some of these students decide to become GPs and have someone like Susie come in for an appointment, they will know exactly who to refer her to in order to help.
LUCIA LAZZERESCHI, STUDENT DOCTOR, SOUTHAMPTON SOCIAL PRESCRIBING CHAMPION 2017-2018 AND SOUTH EAST SOCIAL PRESCRIBING REGIONAL LEAD.
Lucia moved to the UK in 2011 for Sixth Form and then read Medical Sciences at the University of Exeter where she graduated from in 2017. Lucia is now in her second year of graduate medicine at Southampton Medical School. She was Southampton Social Prescribing Champion in 2017-2018 and now the South East Regional Lead for social prescribing.