Nigel Phelan 1998 – 2003

Nigel-PhelanHaving reached 3rd year in college, I thought my days of doing homework for Holy Family Community School were over, but when I was asked to write this piece I realised that it wasn’t the case. I suppose our school days are never really quite over and done with, or filed away as some hazy memory of blackboards and school yard games. I believe it’s only when we’ve left school that we realise how the experience has shaped our personality and strengthened our approach to life. With this in mind I can honestly say that my time in Holy Family Community School couldn’t have prepared me better for the next step of my life as a university student, during the past three years of medical school.

The feeling of achievement and relief that I felt after the Leaving Cert. with the chance to study my first choice at college has never really faded. Looking back, I’m always glad that my local community school a short walk away, allowed me to achieve this. A lot of my current class mates still talk about the nightmare of the Leaving Cert. exam and the pressures of the points system, but I’ve never had any negative memories of my preparation for the Leaving Cert. I think that comes from the school I was in with such a good mix of classmates and friends; I never had the chance to get too hung up on the Leaving Cert. This is opposed to the grind school experience of many of my current peers, who talk about a more stressful academic environment where everyone had the same thing on their minds. In Rathcoole there was always a great rapport between students and staff, which gave the school a real “community” feel. All members of the staff, not just the teachers, were accessible and easy to get to know. I must thank all my teachers over the years. With their help and a bit of hard work on my part, everything seemed to take care of itself on the day of an exam. That doesn’t mean completely free GP visits in the future if any of you are reading this!

I’m coming to the end of my 3rd year in medicine now and so far we’ve been learning all the science that explains how the body works, the drugs that affect it and of course all the names of each part in anatomy. The latter is probably my favourite subject, and seems to generate the most interest from friends, relatives and past teachers when they ask how I’m getting on. “What did you study today?” and “Are those real bodies you use in anatomy?” are common questions and ones I can’t really answer at the dinner table. But it’s great to have such support and good will behind you.

I think everyone in medicine feels privileged to be studying such an interesting subject and my class is full of interesting people too. From Canadians to Australians, it seems like every nationality is there and we all get on really well. It’s a very tight bunch of over 120 people and I think it has to be, with all the stress of exams and the tough teaching style of a busy hospital consultant.

At the moment we spend one day a week in Tallaght Hospital learning basic clinical skills like stitching and taking blood pressure. I think the purpose of this is to adjust us to the hospital setting where we will begin the next step of our education in September. These clinical years will see our study become much more practical and people-orientated. I’m confident that the positive experiences and knowledge that I gained in my school days will continue to help me in these coming years. I look forward to the challenge.