Med student: Guiding at historic hospital taught me a lot

Monday, 23 May 2022 14:32

“Being a tour guide at the historic Kuks Hospital taught me a lot,” says Jaroslav Matějka, a third-year student at the Third Faculty of Medicine of Charles University. Above all, he credits it with teaching him how to communicate better with others. “It wouldn't hurt any med student to guide for a while,” he adds


Kuks: It's about people

“I have never enjoyed sightseeing. I usually find guide presentations boring and they don’t capture my imagination. I prefer to just walk around the outdoor exhibitions and not waste time listening to information I can look up myself,” says Jaroslav. Despite past experiences that failed to live up to expectations, things – he says – are different at Kuks. It’s about the people involved. “We have a great group - from students, teachers, a lawyer or a former headmaster to retirees - who are a pleasure to spend time with.” It’s a lively and thoughtful bunch: “Everybody's approach and interpretation is different and we all spice up the story to make it attractive although our tours are all based on historical sources.”

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Treasure trove of information

Information about Kuks can seem infinite – there is no bottom: “Often, thanks to the historians who work at the hospital, I find out something I didn't know. Occasionally, I find something on my own and then consult my discoveries with my colleagues,” he says with enthusiasm. “Thanks to a documentary from 1968/1969, we know that Kuks was a hospital for long-term patients, a Trutnov internment centre, and for a time even a lunatic asylum! The footage shows, for example, the room in which the deceased from the entire hospital were carried to be laid in coffins. I shuddered, it looks exactly the same today! You have to wonder why and how it was done...,” reflects the young man. “Kuks got to me also because I study medicine. It's great to know how healthcare was practiced here more than three hundred years ago.”

If he were to have lived there on the banks of the Elbe in the 18th century, Jaroslav says he would have chosen the opposite bank, the left, which was where the Špork spa was located. “I would come to the hospital occasionally and for a day at most, although the patients – had a nice life here: there was a pub, they sold alcohol and cigarettes, and they could even leave the hospice for three whole days,” he says with a smile.


Medicine is sexy

Before the guiding season starts in April, Jaroslav is “only” a med student with his mind on his studies and exams. “Year after year, after overcoming a crucial and most difficult of exams, older classmates assure me that from now on I will enjoy my studies to the fullest. Well, actually, I'm still waiting... So far, I'm just losing my hair at school,” says the third-year student with self-deprecatory amusement.

As for his specialisation, he has yet to decide there as well – it’s not any decision to take. “It's terrible but when I get hands-on experience, wherever, I like it. I'm currently in surgery, where the staff - from the nurses to the doctors - has been absolutely wonderful, so momentarily I'd prefer to go there. But I already know that after my experience in ARO (ICU or adult intensive care), I also wanted to work there, now I'm going to want to be a surgeon too! Working with people is very important to me. That's why after school I would like to join a big hospital where I can learn as much as possible,” he says about plans for the future.

Why did he decide to study medicine? His unequivocal answer is that it’s a “sexy field”. He adds: “Medicine takes a lot of work, in fact, you have to educate yourself all your life.” Being prepared and self-educating, is something he says medicine and guiding have in common.

“Yes, you repeat the same old lines over and over again. There are known facts, and I simply have to say them. But it's up to me how I can engage visitors and whether I can pull them in... Of course, sometimes you can meet people who just turn on the machine and talk while thinking about something else, which I don't like very much. Fortunately, there are many more people who ask questions and motivate me to perform,” he says. He admits that when he's had a busy or tough day at Kuks, he's not up to the usual banter at home, preferring to play the quiet game and to hole himself up in a room somewhere, and his family already knows, “Oh, he had a rough day.”
009A let-down, hard work, success!

“As kids in kindergarten we were supposed to draw what we wanted to be and I portrayed myself as a doctor in a white coat pushing a gurney in front of me,” laughs Jaroslav. It seems that he was clear about his future profession at a very early age. Nevertheless, his first attempt to get admitted to medical school - he applied to the faculty in Hradec Králové - failed. “I was a little cocky then, I never crammed much. I thought, why change it for the entrance exam... Well, I failed physics,” he recalls. And so, for a year, he found himself at the Charles University, Institute for Language and Preparatory Studies in Poděbrady.

“It was the best year of my life as far as my student years were concerned,” he says. The experience of 10 young people with a common desire to go to medical school brought them incredibly close together, both as friends (they still meet regularly today) and academically (they spent many months learning and testing each other). Eight of the 10 fast friends made it “I got into two medical schools at once. I chose the ‘third’ one,” concludes Jaroslav Matějka, a student of the Third Faculty of Medicine of Charles University, who has been working as a guide at Kuks again since April this year – an incredible eighth season!


Jaroslav Matějka
Jaroslav Matějka hails from Vlčkovice, in the Podkrkonoší region. After graduating from school in Dvůr Králové nad Labem and spending a year at the Institute of Language and Vocational Training of Charles University, he began studies at the Third Medical Faculty of Charles University; he is now in his third year. When he needs to forget - about Kuks and medicine - he goes hiking in the Krkonoše Mountains. “Or I disappear somewhere over the border. All the money I earn in Kuks goes to travel, which I love,” he says.
Author: Marcela Uhlíková
Photo: Vladimír Šigut, Marcela Uhlíková

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