The student medics working on the NHS frontline during Covid pandemic

Jack McAlinden, 4th year medical student at the University of Bristol
Fourth year medical student at the University of Bristol, Jack McAlinden, is supporting the NHS during the pandemic. Credit: LDRS

Almost 300 fifth year medical students from University of Bristol have joined the frontline prior to graduation to help the NHS fight against the coronavirus.

Students expressed their pride at being able to gain invaluable experience by working in hospitals during the pandemic as well as supporting their "inspirational" NHS colleagues.

282 fifth year students from the university are working on the frontline, including Chanelle Smith who is currently working in critical care at Gloucester Royal Hospital.

She said: "I’m reminded every day of how lucky we are to have this healthcare system. It’s remarkable hearing all these stories of healthcare workers going above and beyond to protect other people.

Chanelle Smith, 22, is one of 282 fifth year students at the University of Bristol who is serving on the frontline Credit: LDRS

"They’ve demonstrated such bravery and courage. It’s really an honour to be part of this profession.

"There’s a balance we need to strike between wanting to support the frontline staff and putting our own safety at risk. My role has been supporting junior doctors in any way that I can – that involves writing discharge summaries, taking bloods, making phone calls.

"Sometimes you feel these small jobs aren’t making a difference, but they are really appreciating having us around. I’m truly grateful to be doing it.

"The pandemic has shown us all how resilient we can be. We will get through this."

Ambulance staff and other healthcare professionals on the frontline have had to endure additional difficulties presented by violent members of the public.

Fellow student Khadijah Ginwalla used to work in Gloucester and Weston-super-Mare but now regularly faces suspected Covid patients at the Bristol Royal Infirmary.

Bristol Royal Infirmary is one of the many hospitals in the region that are benefitting from the services of medical students

The 22-year-old said: "Each of the hospitals are doing their absolute best and the staff are working their absolute hardest to ensure patients are still receiving a really high quality of care.

"When the pandemic hit I was very anxious. There are lots of vulnerable adults in my family and I was worried about working in the hospital and putting them at risk. I still have that same anxiety. At the same time, I want to do what I can to help out.

"One thing I struggle with is the disconnect the general public have. They’re protected from seeing the reality of what goes on in the hospitals if they haven’t personally been affected by the virus. That really allows misinformation and myths and conspiracy theories to run rife.

"If people really saw what happens I think their outlook would be very different."

Other students have been helping as health care assistants or through volunteering, including fourth year student Jack McAlinden who aims to become a doctor like both of his parents.

Jack is optimistic about the possibility of a brighter future which is reinforced by the significant number of vaccines that have been rolled out in our region.

He said: "That’s the best thing we can do for the NHS at the moment – passing on time, so the supply doesn’t dry up in a few years’ time.

"On the whole the mood is let’s get on with it and do what we can. It’s something we’ll look back with on pride, we were part of the efforts at the time.

"There’s also appreciation that the people working as doctors, nurses, physios, occupational therapists, receptionists, they don’t get a choice in it. They have to keep going.

"There hasn’t been a break for anyone in the NHS since last March. There’s a sense of fatigue. The impact on mental health is massive.

"This is the last little hurdle we have to get over."

Credit: Stephen Sumner, The Local Democracy Reporting Service

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