We spoke to a Lancs Uni medic about being on the frontline during the pandemic

‘There is a lack of communication between the university and hospitals’

From the start of this academic year, medical students have continued to go into their placements, meaning that they could be going to hospitals across Lancashire. They aren’t being paid, they aren’t in control of where they get sent, and they’re being thrown in at the deep end. So what’s it actually like working in Lancashire’s hospitals as a student? We spoke to a Lancaster Uni medic, who wishes to remain anonymous, to find out more.

Do you think you should be going into hospitals?

“It was nice in third year to still be having placements, as the worst thing for a practical degree is to not be getting the practical placement. However, it would be easier without us. We’re extra hands, but as a medical student in a week you could be on two or three different wards. Sometimes you could be on one in the morning and one in the afternoon and I think we’re probably super-spreaders of Covid. We have no lateral flow testing, so the patients on green wards don’t have Covid but they don’t know if I have it or not, as I haven’t been tested.

“We’re walking from one ward to another and they don’t know what we’re carrying, we’re not being tested. If anything, I think we are a bit of a danger. We’re not qualified, so whilst we can take histories and bloods nothing we do is really necessary for patient care. If we didn’t do it, the doctor would. Someone has to check our work anyway, so it’s not saving time. I think student nurses are a lot more helpful than we are as they have more responsibilities.”

Did you have a choice of working on the Covid wards?

Med students were sometimes turned away from wards for not having the correct PPE

“It was definitely more forced. We weren’t always informed of what was Covid and what wasn’t. You were told what ward you were on and if you show up and it’s a Covid ward, tough.”

However, upon informing the university of certain personal circumstances, the student told us: “Because I’ve now mentioned my circumstances to the university they have actually given me quite a bit of choice. They are quite understanding. Now I ring up nurses the day before and ask if they are Covid clean. If they aren’t they’re quite understanding that I am not comfortable being there.”

Were you worried about catching Covid yourself?

Not all students would be working at Lancaster’s Royal Infirmary

“Truthfully I was never bothered, if I was going to get Covid I was going to get it. I wasn’t worried about getting it at any point. It was annoying that we didn’t get masks fitted earlier, if I had been worried about getting covid I would have been really mad.  It was also annoying that we were told by the Med school to turn up to placement only to be turned away by nurses as we didn’t have the correct masks. Since going home I have worried more about spreading it so I have been a bit more demanding.”

What were your thoughts about receiving the vaccine?

“We weren’t actually offered it initially, it’s only because another medic did some behind-the-scenes prodding that we received it. Once we were offered it it was really efficient, booked an appointment really quickly and got the vaccine really quickly. I guess I do feel safer with it. Now that I can’t get it doesn’t mean that I can’t carry it. Even though we are vaccinated we are still a major risk to patients at times.”

How do you feel seeing some students breaking lockdown?

Townhouses on campus have seen parties that break lockdown restrictions

“There’s a difference between seeing the odd person, and having a party with 70 people. If I hear that a patient has gone and seen their nan, or an ex-husband to drop off their kids I’m okay with that as you cannot expect people to not see anyone for over a year just because they don’t live with them. As someone who works for the NHS I am okay with that, but when I hear of people going to parties of over 30 people, I’m just like… come on? As much as Boris has not handled this perfectly I think there is a lot to say about the public not listening.”

Has your learning been compromised?

“I think university-wise, yes it has massively negatively impacted my learning. I don’t think the university stepped up to the mark at all and they didn’t really give us many more resources. Truthfully the resources they gave us weren’t very good either, our online lectures have all been very vague and our lecture notes aren’t fantastic. I learn mostly through placement, so not being on placement really impacted my learning. On the other hand, not being on placement gave me so much more time to go onto other non-university online resources and study. It gave me time time catch up on everything and the university did start recording our lectures which really helped.”

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