With a medical crisis unfolding, medical students have a natural desire to help. Rikki Winchester, a fourth year medical student, shares the importance of maintaining perspective.
I knew it was inevitable when my medical school cancelled placements and contact teaching two weeks ago. But, I was still shocked.
I was told to go home for my safety, whilst the clinicians who supported and taught me were to continue working indefinitely, without any leave. Brighton & Sussex Medical School immediately began work to move teaching online. This was a monumental task considering the majority of the faculty are practising clinicians in the middle of a global pandemic.
Amidst clinicians and medical school staff making such important contributions, I couldn’t help feeling like I needed to help.
Despite this commendable desire to help, it is important to take a pragmatic approach. The Medical Schools Council released a ‘Statement of Expectation’, which states that “Medical students’ first responsibility is to their continuing education”. Volunteering or ‘structured’ part-time work is encouraged, but it is important that this does not affect preparedness to qualify.
“Medical students’ first responsibility is to their continuing education”
It was an important statement to make. The desire to immediately help patients and colleagues is understandable; it is a fundamental reason medical students sign up to become doctors.
Despite medical schools cancelling the majority of teaching activities, our end of year exams are 3 months away, and it is essential that we all keep on top of our academic workload. The risk is rushing in to help and falling behind on our studies. We will be more valuable to the NHS if we successfully pass our exams and become competent doctors. We don’t know how long this will continue. We don’t know if we will be required to help bolster the NHS the way the final year students are doing right now. Until then we need to keep ourselves healthy, help others where we can, and focus on becoming valuable members of the team when the time comes. Because, this is likely to be a marathon - not a sprint, so we need to be safe, healthy and fit substitute doctors if the time comes.
"We will be more valuable to the NHS if we successfully pass our exams and become competent doctors."
During lockdown, I have attempted to view my student responsibilities as having a full-time job. Mornings are spent revising course content and keeping on top of my academic workload. I have signed up be an NHS volunteer, and I assist to make phone calls to vulnerable adults to check if they have enough supplies. But, most importantly, I am taking time to do the things I enjoy. These are difficult times, and taking time to looking after ourselves cannot be underestimated.
4th year Medical Student, Brighton & Sussex Medical School
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