Being a medical student on the frontline of a pandemic

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Hayley Irvine is a first year Physician Associate student working as a Doctor's Assistant

  • 20 May 2020
  • 3 min read

I am a first year Physician Associate Student, and was on General Practice placement at the time the lockdown was enforced. In the time leading up to the lockdown we had been seeing less and less patients physically in the practice, with consultations mainly taking place over the phone.

With the lockdown announcement the university communicated with us that it was no longer a requirement to go on placement and many of us returned to our families. A few of the course already worked part time as carers and so have thrown themselves into the community work, some have volunteered at the Queen Alexandra Hospital and a good chunk of us have been employed at St Mary’s Hospital on the Isle of Wight as Doctors Assistants.

The role was created for PA and Medical Students. We assist in clerking in patients – basically taking a history of what has happened up until the point where we meet them in the hospital, we run basic tests like bloods, listen to their heart and lungs, and assess their capacity to make decisions. As we become more familiar in the wards we have been interpreting results and working with the doctors to provide the best care for the patients. Sometimes that means putting in a catheter, other times it means grabbing them a biscuit or helping them get on the wifi!

One of the hardest parts about being on the wards at this time is that no visitors are allowed on the wards, so patients are finding themselves very isolated. The family liaison team do their best to keep families informed, and patients can decorate their bay with pictures they’ve been sent. So if we can help a patient work out how to use the phone or a radio, we hope it makes a big difference to their stay.

We also get treats like free lunch and snacks with our scrubs – it’s been a fantastic experience and all the medical teams have been so welcoming, and even support us with teaching in their spare time– we could never have thought our first year would turn out like this.

doctor's assistants