Why host a website about medical student personal loss during training?
We know that a significant proportion of medical students lose a parent or someone close to them during medical training each year. We know that medical school have procedures in place to support students through more formal avenues such as extenuating circumstances, tutor support, professionalism issues and suchlike. Yet sometimes students feel caught in the middle between formal course requirements and their own emotional responses and responsibilities.
We wanted to provide a compassionate space for information and sharing that catered to the experience of loss during medical training and the unique aspects of that for medical students.
We both wanted to do this in order to provide some help because we could see how complex the experience was of managing the emotional response to someone close to you dying and the grief inherent in that alongside the task of completing a very demanding course.
There seems to be very little in the UK that addresses the emotional and task focused way of coping with a close and personal bereavement. The context of being in a task focused and performance oriented competitive world of medical school, how that is internalised in the sort of self-talk medical students engage with, and dealing with a pandemic on top of that is a huge consideration.
Wendy has worked in medical schools and healthcare teaching environments for many years now and is keen to support students through the difficult transition they go through in order to become graduates of their profession. She has seen the mental anguish that students go through in order to meet course requirements whilst grappling with major grief, and perhaps trying to decide whether to take time out or not, with all that entails. This is a heavy burden to carry in the middle of an intense course.
Leah is a medical student who witnessed her Mum’s health deterioration leading to her passing in the middle of her pre-clinical medical training. She has not only experienced the loss of her mother at a young age, but also the fact it was during her degree made for additional stress during a difficult time. Bereavement is a complex process, which is made all the more-so when it occurs in the midst of such an intense degree. Leah wants to share her story and invoke conversations associated with loss and mental ill-health that can consequently arise, in addition to trying to create more compassionate conversations surrounding issues associated with mental health which she feels are somewhat neglected in the medical field.
Our name: The Wind Rises
We chose the words “The Wind Rises” because of their links to the film of the same name. The film, by Hayao Miyazaki (based on the 1937 novel by Tatsuo Horizon) has as its theme that the wind rises and “you must live”; speaking to the love and will to continue that is part of any bereavement, alongside the grief. The saying ‘The Wind Rises; you must live’ is originally a French saying “Le vent se lève. Il faut tenter de vivre’.
A link to a longer explanation is here https://ghibli.fandom.com/wiki/The_Wind_Rises
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The Wind Rises
The Wind Rises
Primarily we want to host a space that invites conversations around the difficult experience of bereavement during medical training. We are here to provide support through blogs, webinars, and signposting to useful contacts. We base our recommendations on our experience and real world learning in the absence of evidence of effectiveness of interventions. We encourage you to find out what works for you in accessing support for your unique situation.
To provide a space for a conversation about the experience of close personal loss and signpost to resources for medical students to help them during their medical training; particularly focusing on parental loss. We recognise that people experience a range of closeness and distance to parental and extended family relationships and one size does not fit all.
We are inclusive of a range of perspectives and welcome hearing from anyone who would like to add to what is posted on this website. We see this as a space for opening up conversations and invite people to share rather than saying ‘this is how it should be done’ – as if that was even possible.
The Medical Student Experience
At the moment there is little recent research evidence to support any interventions to address the medical student experience during bereavement from a close family member. Research from 2013 shows that as many as 13.0% and 22.5% of medical students experienced bereavement during years 1 – 5 of the course: some (1.3% – 6.3%) experienced multiple or repeated losses. When you think that Years 1 – 5 at a medical school can be around 1000 to 2000 students, that could be anywhere from 10 to 60 students at a smaller medical school, and 20 to 120 students at the larger ones in any one year. This is a significant issue. Medical Students have unique pressures that they have to cope with that include:
Additional stress on top of intense competitive course where students are usually motivated to do their very best.
Juggling being a family member and a medical advisor. Medical school places the students – even at a very early stage – in a different cultural group from the rest of their family with them being seen as someone to turn to, rather than as someone who also needs support.
We invite students to contribute their own experience to this website if they feel comfortable doing so. This is an evolving organic website in part co-created by students’ experience and addressing the gaps in information and understanding available.