Psychiatry: The Best 7 Weeks of Med School

I’m a little sad. Today we finished our final psychiatry rotation. We had four weeks theory in third year and four weeks practical in fifth, but this year’s rotation was much more amazing.


I was really nervous because we would be doing the rotation at large psychiatric hospitals with very acute patients, and we would also be expected to work alone rather than in groups. But one professor said to us,

“You should be more afraid walking on campus than walking on these hospital grounds. People are unpredictable. Our patients are ill and once you know their illness you can predict them.”

We rotated as follows:

  • one week substances and psychogeriatrics
  • one week therapeutic wards
  • two weeks child and adolescent psychiatry
  • two weeks acute and outpatient psychiatry
  • (the first week was dedicated to tutorials and other learning opportunities)

I really found the patient contact to be so fulfilling. Even though some patients scared me a little initially, and many made me so sad, it felt good to examine them and to see them get better over time.

I loved the hospitals. Both hospitals are located on large estates. Each ward is in a separate building. There are big lawns and pretty gardens. The one has lush woods and the other has endemic fynbos. Because it is winter, I got to see the sun rise over these estates as I started my days. Walking from one ward to another, I would see guinea fowl and squirrels and cats. And also patients on a walkabout – none of that nonsense where psych patients are stuck inside all day!

I also had such a great experience with the psychiatrists supervising us. They were constantly recommending books – I read The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon upon their recommendation.

(c) Jackie Musial – click image for source

In a lecture on autism spectrum disorders, we watched an episode of The Middle.

In lectures on ADHD we analysed Calvin and Hobbes cartoons.

And once, a tutorial was cancelled for a special treat: the lecturer took our small group for a drumming circle! It had educational worth: drum circles are now widely used in child psychiatry. I have no rhythm but it was such a fun experience.

In one ward round, a consultant asked me what I’m reading at the moment. And he actually appreciated that what I was reading at the time was not medical. He said,

“You know, if you don’t read widely, you will begin to resemble your least favourite professor.”

Also, psychiatric nurses are REALLY nice. I enjoyed working with them and enjoyed working with the allied health professionals as well.

These are my kinds of people. I met maybe one or two psychiatrists that I really didn’t like, but overall it was such a great experience. Psychiatry has made it to one of my top choices for specialising, one day.

But now it’s over. And Internal Medicine starts on Tuesday (long weekend, at least). And I’m trying to think positively, but I’m really not looking forward to seven weeks of suffering.


  1. Z says:

    Wow this sounds amazing! I can’t wait for psychiatry rotations. 🙂

    1. I hope you will enjoy it!

  2. doctorloony says:

    I loved this post, its so interesting reading someone elses insight and experience 🙂

  3. Read Robyn says:

    I liked my Psychiatry rotation as well, it felt the most human to me. But psychiatrist are so dogmatic in their diagnoses; they cling to the DSM like a lifeline. I don’t think people can fit so easily into well-defined paragraphs.

    1. I have to say, I didn’t experience that as much. Maybe partially because we are in the process of moving from DSM-IV to DSM-V, so everyone has to rely a little more on their insight. But I even had psychiatrists reminding me that “diseases don’t read the DSM”. Which is useful, because I feel like in our setting things sometimes present a little bit differently than they do in more developed countries. But I can see how easy it would be to fall in the trap of relying too much on the DSM!

  4. KokkieH says:

    I’m glad you enjoyed this rotation so much. Mental health is such an interesting field. For me it was pretty much a coin toss between psychology and youth ministry. I picked the latter, but now I’m specialising in counselling, so I’m headed back in that direction in any case.

    I hope you get plenty of rest over the weekend so you’re fresh and ready for internal medicine by Tuesday.

    1. Thank you for this!

  5. Peace says:

    This made realize how much I miss my psychiatry rotation. I am in the final week of internal medicine rotation and girl… I loved every bit of it. It is not the same you are a senior student. Trust me.
    Good luck.

    1. Thank you! I really appreciated your encouragement, even though I didn’t reply right away. It’s going alright so far!

  6. harveylisam says:

    I’m so glad you enjoyed your rotation! I agree wholeheartedly that patient contact is the most fulfilling part. I also agree with one of the above comments – that psychiatrists tend to stick to the DSM like it’s their lifeline when it’s not always that cut and dry.

    Good luck on internal! We’ll suffer through together.

    1. Thanks! And sorry for taking long to reply. Internal is rough, but… better than I anticipated. So far.

  7. charoo iyer says:

    I think you’ll make a great seem compassionate ,plus it requires you to understand people from different walks of life which I’m sure you’ll be great at, considering that you are well read and well travelled 🙂

    1. Thank you for the lovely compliment!

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