My First Week of Clinical Years

A diastolic murmur  

In the trolley being pushed; 

Something on its wheel,  

sounding like that ‘whoosh’ 

A desk cleared next door,  

or am I hearing crackles? 

Everything sounds medical,  

My ears are feeling frazzled! 

I’m clutching at diagnoses  

And trying to remember symptoms, 

How do I really listen if 

My brain is sifting systems?  

I ask about family history, 

I’m in shock at what I hear: 

A mother lost to breast cancer; 

Today marks 13 years…  

I’d like to ask how she coped  

With losing her mum so young, 

I’d like to ask for tips 

On holding on to my mum 

I’ve been thinking a lot lately  

How I’ll cope when the time comes, 

But one mustn’t mourn the living 

Or we waste what’s left of fun 

It’s not right to ask this lady, 

Especially over the phone, 

When she’s come for something else 

And I’ve nothing but her tone 

I miss the visual cues –  

The clothes, the posture, the walks;  

How much we pick up about people  

Before they even talk!  

COVID is causing havoc, 

I’m worried about my learning, 

To practice examinations on people – 

What a strange yearning! 


There was another patient  

Whose voice was very posh – 

I couldn’t believe he was homeless. 

Stereotypes got squashed. 

Turns out he was convinced  

That he’d been attacked – 

His house taken over by gangs, 

His business, hacked! 

The car became his shelter 

And he applied for council housing, 

But rejected all his offers; 

on went his mental howlings…  

And so he was referred  

As ‘query delusions’ 

And I found myself hearing  

My first psychotic thought fusions  

But isn’t it all an illusion?  

Are thoughts just neural juice?  

If his views aren’t ‘real’, 

What makes yours any more true?  

About the poem  

Thivyaa’s poem, My First Week of Clinical Years, reflects upon a day in her very first week of clinical year, on placement at a GP practice. It explores the confusions that come with trying to calibrate one’s senses to the medical curriculum, the emotions that arise from speaking to a patient who strikes a chord within you, and also the philosophical issues that erupt from psychiatric diagnoses.  

About the poet  

Gayathri Thivyaa Gangatharan (Thivvi, ‘thecreativemedic’) is a third year medical student and poet. As a Tamil refugee, she recalls finding English challenging, but poetry being more accessible to her through its form and simplicity. As early as aged seven, Thivyaa would write poems about the topics she was learning at school, finding joy in the rhythm and play of sounds.  Thivyaa’s experience of depression and existential crises led to her taking time out of medical school. During these years, poetry became a form of self-therapy and release during her insomnia and suicidal moments. As such, she wrote several poems about mental health, LGBTQ+ and other societal issues, as well as performing spoken word poetry at pubs and conferences.  Since recovering and returning to medical school, Thivyaa has been using free form poetry to reflect on daily life, be it the emotions on placements or the autumnal trees in the park! 

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