Warwick Medical School continues to be proud of the contribution our medical students are making during the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. Amid changes to their timetables, with all but practical elements of the course moved online and alterations to their placements, they have been adapting to the new way of studying exceptionally well and volunteering in droves to help where they can.
When the first wave hit in March 2020, 520 MB ChB students volunteered to provide front line care by undertaking clinical support in our three hospitals; University Hospital Coventry and Warwickshire (UHCW), George Eliot and South Warwickshire Foundation Trust (SWFT), across approximately 2,500 beds and tens of thousands of patients.
Almost a year on, there remain 120 students helping on the frontline within two of our region’s hospitals as part of the third wave effort, as pressures increased after Christmas with more patients being admitted for hospital treatment.
One such student is third year Austin Carter (pictured), who was in his second year when he began volunteering as a healthcare assistant at Warwick Hospital last spring. With teaching cancelled at the time, he felt that it was a good way to be involved.
“As a healthcare assistant I helped support patients with day to day personal care and hygiene. I also carried out basic observations and measurements such as taking blood pressure, checking heart, respiratory and saturation rates and reporting any findings to the nursing staff.
"It was a good cause and something we as future doctors would be involved with, so I felt that it was my duty to put myself forward. We weren’t studying at the time, so I felt it was important to volunteer. I am still on the books at Warwick Hospital and do the occasional shift at weekends to help out”
As the nation started to open back up and people returned to work and study, many students continued to provide support roles when needed within the NHS in their free time. Students also volunteered to staff the University’s Covid-19 test and trace facility based on campus. This facility continues to run, offering staff and students on campus with tests for those experiencing symptoms. It has been running consistently and smoothly since September 2020, providing an efficient, safe service with a quick turnaround for results.
Towards the end of term one as students prepared to return to their families for Christmas, an asymptomatic testing centre was established in the Slate, one of the University’s conference facilities with the capacity to offer up to 2,000 tests a day. The centre continues to provide a weekday service to staff and students who are asymptomatic, encouraging those working and studying on campus to engage with twice weekly testing. Using the service is quick and easy, with results available in approximately 45 minutes of taking the test. Around 180 MB ChB students have volunteered for both the COVID-19 test and trace and lateral flow mass testing where they have undertaken approximately 20,000 student and staff tests so far!
First year student Angela Wilkinson is currently a volunteer taking part in both the asymptomatic testing and vaccination programme.
“I got involved for a number of reasons; it is a huge historical event to be part of, it gives me clinical experience and exposure by carrying out the tests and vaccinations and enables me to make a contribution to helping the nation get back to some sort of normality. Also, as I am living alone, with many of my lessons online, it gives me the opportunity to be able to meet and chat to other medical students. It’s great to have some additional face to face contact with like-minded people.”
With the vaccination programme rolling out across the country we have 450 MB ChB students who are working across Coventry and Warwickshire, supporting a population of over a million people in getting vaccinated.
Angela is one of the students undertaking shifts at the Stoneleigh Park mass vaccination facility. She said, “It’s really well organised and efficient. It takes around 20 minutes for patients to move through the process. As a medical student my role is to administer the vaccination, working alongside healthcare professionals who perform the assessment of each patient and talk through any potential side effects. The training was extensive. We had to complete modules online looking at a number of things including how to treat the vaccine, health and safety etc and then undertake face-to-face sessions which included life support and how to do CPR in Covid times. The centre is flexible when booking shifts so I can fit working around my studies."
Professor Simon Brake, Chief Engagement and Innovation Officer at Warwick Medical School, has been instrumental in co-ordinating the student effort over the last year, and has praised the students who have been involved.
“When you consider that these students are undertaking an intensive graduate entry medical degree and all the added work that brings, as well as adapting to a new way of studying and continuing with placements in hospitals and GP surgeries across the region, it is all the more impressive. After what has been a difficult year for everyone, they continue to make a big contribution to the Coventry and Warwickshire community through their clinical work. We are immensely proud of them.”
Professor Stuart Croft, Vice Chancellor, University of Warwick also added his appreciation of the students' efforts.
‘As a University, everyone has put so much time and effort into changing how we operate, all within the uncertainty that comes alongside it as the months have gone on. As a Vice-Chancellor, I’m particularly impressed with the way our medical students, across all cohorts, have been heavily involved with working on the NHS frontline, supporting testing and vaccination programmes on top of the already demanding study and placement schedules across the last year. Thank you to all of you who have worked so very hard and made such a difference to our wider community.’