Coronavirus study and welfare advice from UCLan Neuroscience graduate and current medical student, Abbie Tutt

We were withdrawn from University placements in the middle of March at Warwick Medical School, which is where I went after UCLan to complete my medical training. We were meant to be learning respiratory and gastro medicine and were sent away from the respiratory unit after arriving. We got an email saying we would be pulled out for at least two weeks and then shortly after, Boris Johnson announced the lockdown and we spent the following weeks with not much to do.  

I tried to keep on top of my studies, however, like most other students it was hard to keep at the same level I had been working at before. My course mates and I decided that it was ok to not be on top of it. Most of us were away from families, unsure what was happening with our courses and the world in general, and we were surrounded by constant distractions. In my case it was the animals around campus and Netflix!

I decided to start giving myself smaller targets each day. Instead of doing a whole presentation (which often took half a week to get finished) I told myself it was ok to get small chunks done per day. For example, in ‘breathlessness’ we cover everything from COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease), asthma (both asthma attacks and chronic asthma) to ARDS (Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome), which is what doctors are currently using as a guideline to treat Coronavirus. I told myself to get one illness completed a day when I would usually get at least three done in an evening. It was good as I stopped stressing and began to love the relaxed pace and enjoy the rest we were getting from such an intense course.

Abbie Tutt

I began to get bored after about two weeks of this but thankfully, my (albeit limited) skill set could be put to use. Warwick Medical School has been amazing and not only got their final year students in to help with Covid-19, but also found roles for years one to three. I was deployed to a local general district hospital in their A&E department. I was nervous, just as anyone would be I suppose, but it meant I was able to lend an extra pair of hands as a morph of a Healthcare Assistant and medical student.

I love the department. The team has been so welcoming and I feel lucky to be able to help out in what is something I will (hopefully) never see again in my career. It's been an odd experience in A&E as I expected the chaos you normally see on TV, but we are experiencing lower patient numbers than usual. I am on the "clean" A&E which is where patients who are Covid-19 negative attend. I have only seen one patient who was Covid-19 positive and I have never seen anyone so poorly. It was a shock to the system but a reminder that this is a serious illness that destroys lives.

I have mainly been doing cannulas, making cups of tea, taking patient histories, doing examinations and even assisting in a shoulder dislocation reduction. It's been nice to have the chance to chat with patients who are not allowed to have family members in with them and just needed a bit of reassuring. Sometimes a quick shoulder squeeze or a handhold can make all the difference. Cups of good tea also have the same effect I have found. It has also been nice to chat with our fellow healthcare students such as student nurses who are largely still on placements during this time. I think they are all incredible and don't get the praise or recognition they deserve.

Alongside the shifts, I am also still an active student doing my research proportion of my degree online. We have to do a project, much like my dissertation for my undergraduate study at UCLan. However, instead of brain cells in T flasks, I am doing a review in to the research behind different deliveries of medical education.

One tip I have tried to learn and imply from this bizarre way of life is to not expect too much of myself at the moment. If I have a day when I wake up and want to do nothing, I take it as a day off. There's no point pressurizing yourself to perform to the levels you were before the lockdown because we are not living in the same world. Make small tasks to do during the day, even something as taking the bin out makes me feel like I've done something productive (those 15 steps from the bin to the outside are tough).

Break your dissertation down into manageable chunks (a day of editing is always a good way to take a productive break), revise one topic a day from each module. Most importantly, keep in touch with friends. Don't be afraid to do what you want to do instead of that bit of coursework. It will make the world of a difference when it comes to tackling it later. I live on my own so I know how difficult it can be. Luckily, I am still as close to my UCLan friends as I was in the third year and last week we held a pub quiz in honour of our local pub ‘The Guild’ which was 20 steps from our own front door back in the day. It was great to see everyone again and just that hour made my flat seem a little less empty.

I suppose lastly, because I am on the path to going into a medical profession, don't delay seeking help if you are feeling unwell. GP's are still open, A&E is still there. We would rather see you for something we can easily fix because you came in early than the alternative. Plus, there's probably a medical student keen to come and have a chat with you and we make good cups of tea.

11 May 2020

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