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Medical Students on the COVID-19 Front Line: My Pandemic

While families stay together in the safety of their own homes, the hardworking members of the NHS (both current and returning from retirement) are risking their lives every single day to keep our nation safe…. And this is something I have seen first-hand as a medical student.

My name is Zoe, and I am a 4th year medical student at Cardiff University. Over the past few months, I should have been in the library studiously revising and preparing for my medical school finals. But instead, I have found myself working full-time as a clinical assistant in the second largest emergency department in Wales.

As COVID-19 has developed to a pandemic status, life as I know it at university has been turned upside down. The last few weeks of my clinical placements were cancelled, cutting my neurology block short, and I was sent home to practice social distancing. The most important exams of my degree had gone from just over a month away to at least 2021, as it was decided that these would be postponed. All other assessments, including my Student Selected Component (SSC), have been converted to projects that we can complete at home, which meant that my arranged project with a surgical team could no longer go ahead.

Despite the interference to my current academic year, I am now looking ahead to what lies next. In September, I will be enrolling onto an intercalated degree in Emergency and Pre-Hospital medicine. Through this degree, I have had the opportunity to begin my placements early by acting as an extra pair of hands in the emergency department.

Over the past 8 weeks, I have fully immersed myself into the exciting atmosphere of A&E by becoming a member of the front-line team. Working 12-hour long days and night shifts, my main duties are to assist staff by recording observations, taking bloods, inserting cannulae, suturing and dressing wounds (to name a few!). As new patients present to our doors, I am responsible for taking handover from the ambulance crews and performing relevant examinations to relay clinical details back to the ED Doctors. I have also had the opportunity to assist in the resuscitation room during trauma calls. I am not yet working with patients who are tested positive for COVID-19, however this is very likely to change as the situation in the UK develops.

Although the shifts are long (and sometimes both physically and emotionally difficult), I feel privileged to be able to utilise the skills I have learnt throughout medical school to help the NHS in such an uncertain time. The sense of camaraderie I have seen between the frontline healthcare staff is outstanding, and I have never been so proud to be a part of the NHS as a doctor-in-training.

What can you do to help?

Please kindly consider donating to the Doctors’ Hardship Fund and consider becoming a student campaigner.  I am genuinely worried about the psychological and physical toll that the current situation is having on our front-line doctors. Your donations and your volunteering efforts will significantly help. Thank you!

Written by Zoe Hinchcliffe 

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