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The medical students joining the front line in the fight against coronavirus

28 April 2020

Eli Wyatt
Eli Wyatt

More than 1,000 Cardiff University medical students have volunteered to help in the fight against coronavirus by supporting the Welsh NHS.

Many are working on the front line in Covid-19 wards at hospitals across Wales, while others are in general practice or supporting efforts through medical education.

Here, four students from the University’s School of Medicine describe in their own words how it feels to be taking on the challenge of tackling a pandemic - before they have even graduated.

Faris Hussain
Faris Hussain

Final-year student Faris Hussain, 24, born in Cardiff and brought up in Cwmbran, South Wales, is working at University Hospital of Wales in Cardiff:

‘Being part of the effort to tackle this crisis has been awe inspiring’

“I’m working as part of a team on a general medicine ward. It’s currently a designated Covid ward, meaning we’re looking after patients who have tested positive for Covid-19 but also patients with other illnesses and infections.

“I feel privileged to be part of the NHS effort in helping as many people as we can through this crisis. The small part I’m playing is the least I can do in this unprecedented time. Many aspects of life have been put on hold by the pandemic - and I don’t know how long things will continue like this or what the future holds. But working with NHS staff to help tackle this crisis has been awe inspiring.

“I volunteered because I believe I have a responsibility to help in whatever way I can in our NHS’ time of need. Though I’m very early on in my medical career, I hope we can make a difference by relieving the pressure on hospitals and supporting NHS staff.

“The School of Medicine has been fantastic in preparing us to be junior doctors and though the current circumstances are without a doubt challenging, I feel ready to cope and help with the NHS’ handling of these challenges.”

Emily Lloyd
Emily Lloyd

Final-year student Emily Lloyd, 24, from Moylegrove in north Pembrokeshire, is working at Glangwili Hospital in Carmarthen:

‘I’m nervous but mainly proud to be able to help in the community where I grew up’

“Being from a little village, I’m glad to be able to come back to West Wales to help in the community where I grew up. My role involves assisting junior doctors on the medical ward with any tasks that need doing and making sure that patients can go home at the earliest time possible to avoid any risk of infection or catching coronavirus.

“I feel proud to be able to help in this effort to combat coronavirus - but I have to admit that I’ve felt a little nervous too. We have received fantastic support from all staff at the School of Medicine and we all know that just by a click of an email or a quick phone call, someone will be there to guide and help us.

“We are fortunate here in West Wales that we haven’t seen the same number of Covid-19 cases as other areas. However, there is a worry among staff at the hospital and the general public that our ‘wave’ here might come at a later time. Whatever happens in the coming months, I'll be doing all I can to help.

“Working in a hospital before I’ve even graduated is not a situation I expected to be in - but I'm determined to learn as much as I can and I'm sure in years to come I'll be really proud to think back on the way my career as a doctor began.”

Final-year student Eli Wyatt, 23, from Skenfrith in south Wales, is working at Glan Clwyd Hospital in Denbighshire:

‘It felt like I was learning to swim in deep water - but now I feel like part of a team of fighters’

“It has been a little overwhelming starting on the Covid wards here at Glan Clwyd Hospital. But I have to say that the staff here have been so welcoming and I feel settled here already despite only being here for less than a week. I have gone from feeling like I was learning to swim in deep water, to feeling part of a team of strong fighters.

“I remind myself that whatever I may be feeling, it is nothing compared to what our patients feel battling this disease and in turn reminds me why I have chosen this incredible career. I am so proud to be entering the NHS at this unprecedented time and I am eternally grateful to Cardiff University for getting me here.”

Tom Beresford
Tom Beresford

Tom Beresford, 23, from Swansea, who is completing a medical education degree between years 4/5 of his medicine studies, is working in an e-learning resource team which produced a PPE training guide being used by Cardiff and Swansea medical schools and the NHS

‘I hope my work will help medical students and NHS workers across Wales to stay safe’

“I work in a newly-created team, comprised of other students on my course, academic and clinical staff. It was formed earlier during the pandemic as it was recognised there was an urgent need to quickly distribute new information on Covid-19 to health workers. The scale of the demand and need for social distancing made traditional methods of teaching very difficult so we’re developing digital resources, distributed quickly and to be completed at home.

“Generally, the team receives requests from doctors and health workers to convert new Covid-19 guidance into digital format, building in remote assessment and multimedia. One of the projects I’ve worked on was producing an e-resource on new national resuscitation guidance with emergency medicine staff in the University. I’ve also helped to develop PPE training e-resources to help protect medical students volunteering across Wales.

“When this opportunity came about, I jumped at the chance to get involved. I’ve had a few laughs from friends who are starting hospital work when they realise it’s my voice on sections of the PPE tutorial! It’s quite sobering when you realise, however, that this resource will potentially help to keep your friends safe on the wards. Knowing that we are preparing medical students - like Faris, Eli and Emily - across Wales, is immensely satisfying.

“The University has been fantastic. I’m looking forward to restarting my clinical placement in the coming months and I’m extremely proud of my friends working on the front line.”

Dr Rhian Goodfellow, undergraduate medicine programme director, says there are 240 final-year students carrying out paid work in Welsh hospitals, while 750 students from years 1-4 have volunteered in various roles: 

‘We are so proud of our students - I hope they can look back on this time with great pride’

“Our students have stepped up and from the word go they have volunteered their services. We are so proud of each and every one of them. Student safety has been the most important thing for us - many of them are going into an extremely difficult environment. Even for qualified doctors and healthcare staff, a pandemic would be a very daunting and challenging prospect - and they’re going out into this kind of environment for the first time.

“Helping the NHS and patients in a crisis like this is an admirable act and one of the reasons why we came into this profession. I hope when they start as doctors for real their contribution will be a sense of pride.”

Jessica Randall, president of MedSoc, the University’s medical students’ society, says the school and her committee has worked “tirelessly” to plan how volunteering across Wales could work:

‘It’s a testament to how dedicated, caring and brave Cardiff medical students are’

“We are really appreciative of the fact staff were receptive to our opinions and that the student voice was heard and actively considered. I think it’s helped to foster a closer working relationship between staff and students, one that I hope will be continued into the future.

“When the call for volunteers went out, it was overwhelming that so many students replied. It really is a testament to how dedicated, caring and brave Cardiff medical students are. I’m sure the Welsh NHS will be grateful for their help, and I am certainly proud to call them my peers.”