UCL School of Life and Medical Sciences


"We have to stand united with all our NHS colleagues and stay positive"

23 March 2020

We are incredibly proud of all our students volunteering during this crisis. ​​​​​​​A is an ophthalmology speciality trainee who finished their foundation training 8 months ago. Last week, they had their first shift covering a confirmed Covid-19 ward. 


On Thursday evening, A received an email that allocated over 150 doctors to NHS teams and varying shift patterns. 

They were asked to start at 9am on Friday.

A explained: "We were all shocked at the pace of the changes and escalation. I cannot describe the sense of foreboding and anxiety I felt when I found out that I would be joining the medical rota with the rest of my ophthalmology team.

“I didn’t know where my stethoscope was, I didn’t know how to order a chest X ray, how to request bloods or where to find scrubs. I felt so de-skilled and utterly unequipped for the task ahead as my day job hadn’t included any of this.”

At the medical handover, there were over 30 junior doctors and 5 consultants assigned for the night shift.

A said: “There are normally 5 to 6 night medical doctors. They are taking this seriously and trying to act early.

“Everyone is kind, everyone understands we are all scared and I felt fully welcomed into this team. The medical team behind these changes all understand we have lives, we have families and everyone is worried and they are happy to do everything to support us.“

There are clear protocols for procedures such as taking bloods and cannulation. When seeing a CoVID confirmed patient, the guidance is to wear a surgical mask, apron and gloves. For crash calls and intubated patients, full PPE is required. On the wards, however, the medics were not immediately expecting too much from the ophthalmologists.

“They have deliberately got us on the wards before they think the peak will hit so that we feel slightly more comfortable with the basics. The medics want us to become more secure so that we can be more helpful later down the line.

 “Things that I was worried about, such as how to escalate these patients and oxygen requirements, were all explained to me before the shift. But, actually there are lots of seniors on site reviewing these patients and making these decisions. My main job for now is really to document and to prepare discharge summaries.”

A feels a responsibility to get involved in any way that can help. They said: “Above all, we are all doctors. We have all taken oaths to fulfil and over the next few months we will have to uphold these in ways we were not expecting.

“We are all scared but we are all in this together. Our medical colleagues are no less frightened than we are, no specialty is prepared for this pandemic. But, we will get through this. We have to stand united with all our NHS colleagues and stay positive.”