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A year and a half ago, Rīga Stradiņš University (RSU) signed a partnership contract with Ziv Medical Center to establish a clinical training centre. This partnership enables RSU students to attend an orthopaedics course in Israel and learn from experienced specialists. The COVID-19 pandemic has not been an obstacle to this partnership; a new contract has been signed, and RSU students can undergo a ten-week clinical placement in the excellent trauma centre in northern Israel. 

Established in 1910 and located close to the Lebanon–Syria border, which is a troubled region, the clinic treats injuries from military conflicts. The clinic's doctors also help people from outside of Israel. For example, between 2013 and 2019, more than 1,500 patients suffering from various injuries sustained during the war in Syria were treated at the clinic. 

This is the first year when 6th-year students at RSU are undergoing their ten-week clinical placements which include a four-week placement in surgical diseases, a four-week placement in internal diseases and a two-week placement in a specialty chosen by the student. The placement is implemented based on a rotation principle, which is practical and lets the students work in different medical teams. 

One of RSU students who is undergoing a placement at the Ziv Medical Center is 6th-year student Konstantin Levinas. We asked him how he evaluates the work the clinic does, its experienced staff and the opportunities that underoing hi splacement here provides.


Konstantin Levinas. Photo from personal archive.

Please tell us a bit more about the clinic.

It is the largest trauma centre in northern Israel. There are seven operating rooms, 331 beds, twenty-two intensive care beds and forty-seven departments. It might not seem that the clinic is that big, but the work is very intensive. 

What is a day in your placement like?

My morning starts with a long walk and exercising with my dog. We both need it to start the day in a positive way. In this way I can organise my thoughts and be in good shape for the rest of the day. 

My placement starts with morning rounds, during which I talk with my colleagues and patients. The doctors on night shift update their colleagues on their patients and on any changes that have taken place during the night. After that we study the patients’ test results and decide on necessary changes in treatment plans. At this point, the head of the department and senior doctors ask me questions regarding the treatment of some patients. I have to admit that the questions are quite tricky – they make me realise that I still have a lot to learn. After examining and questioning the patients, the practical work begins. Together with experienced doctors I perform various examinations, procedures and manipulations.

Working with the specialists of this clinic is a fantastic opportunity and experience for me as a student! Sometimes I feel that there is a huge knowledge gap between me and the doctors at the clinic, but this serves to motivate me to continue learning and working after hours.

The importance of clinical placements like this cannot be overestimated. It is very important to work with excellent specialists and have the ability to learn from them. 

What are the most valuable realisations and skills that you have gained during your placement?

Firstly, the realisation that knowledge is best acquired and strengthened through practice. In addition, it is extremely important to have the opportunity to observe experienced doctors and memorise the right patterns of action. Secondly, I have ascertained for myself that it is very important to be empathetic and have a respectful attitude towards a patient.

You shouldn’t get caught up in your emotions. It is important to remain calm and focus on what is important. This, in my opinion, is the key to success when you are fighting for a patient’s life. 

Thirdly, professional teamwork and the ability to maintain critical, clinical thinking. 

What are the biggest benefits of the placement?

I think that placements should start as early as possible during studies as they help students choose their specialty. 

It is necessary for students to understand if they are any good at the specialty they have chosen and interested in working in the specialty in real-life conditions. 

Each specialty has its own routine. The working environment of a radiologist will differ from that of an emergency room and it is important to understand what you prefer. It is best understood by trying it for yourself. 

Has COVID-19 affected your placement?

Of course! Same as everywhere. Therefore, I would like to thank everyone who made this placement possible. I would like to thank the Vice-Rector for Health Studies Prof. Guntis Bahs, the Dean of the International Student Department Smuidra Žermanos, the Head of International Clinical Studies Ieva Lejniece, the RSU International Student Association and many others. Thank you, I really appreciate it! I am sure that other students share my appreciation.

Is it true that the clinic is located in a very beautiful place?

Oh yes! The clinic is located nine hundred meters above sea level. The city is surrounded by beautiful mountains and vineyards. The view is amazing! Unfortunately, I don’t have much time to enjoy it because my placement is a lot of hard work. 

What do you think about Riga? 

I think of Riga as my second home. Riga is big enough to be called a metropolis, and living here is an amazing experience! The capital of Latvia has a lot to offer, it is warm and friendly, despite the weather sometimes being cold and windy.

I will always remember the people, the parks, the delicious beer and the beavers in the canal. These memories will always make me smile.