University-wide effort to help fight coronavirus

31 March 2020

UCLan students and staff are heading to the frontline while specialist and personal protective equipment is being designed for the NHS

Student doctors and nurses from the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) are answering the call to help the country’s fight against coronavirus.

Around 20 final year medical students and more than 300 final year nursing students could soon be working on the frontline during these unprecedented times of a global pandemic after the Government and their regulatory bodies appealed for help.

Details and special permissions are still being finalised, but it is expected the additional resources of student nurses would undertake a variety of tasks including taking blood, dressing wounds, inserting cannulas and catheters, giving injections, escorting patients to scans and swabbing patients for vital Covid-19 tests.

The medical students will carry out a wide range of foundation doctor level clinical duties including assessing and referring patients and prescribing medication. They have completed all these duties while undertaking thousands of hours of clinical training. They will not make the final decision on health matters and will be supervised and supported throughout.

"I know our final year medicine and nursing students have received the very best training possible, this is now their opportunity to shine and support the healthcare system at a time of great need."

Aaron Hoban is in the final six months of his three-year BSc (Hons) Pre-registration Adult Nursing degree. The 29-year-old, from Chorley, said: “I’m feeling very excited and I feel up to the challenge of helping out at such an unprecedented time. I’ve trained for this, this is my job and now it’s my time to step up and do what I can to help treat people in a time of crisis.”

Aaron, who has undertaken 2,300 hours of clinical placements, will be working for Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust at either Royal Preston Hospital or Chorley Hospital.

He said: “The aim is simple, we can do some of the more basic nursing jobs and free up more senior staff to help cope with the huge demand. This is not how any us expected our final months of being a student would go. There are feelings of anxiety but we’ve had great support from our lectures at UCLan, from the Royal College of Nursing, the Nursing and Midwifery Council and we know there’ll be support on the wards from the Trust. We’re all in this together and we’ve just got to get through this.”

Aaron Hobin - nursing student helping fight COVID-19
Aaron Hobin - nursing student helping fight COVID-19

Usama Al Siyabi is in the final months of his five-year training programme to become a doctor. The 22-year-old, who came to study at UCLan from Oman, has been completing his clinical placement at the Royal Blackburn Teaching Hospital. He said: “It’s an overwhelming time to be practising medicine but me and my colleagues have said it feels such an honour and privilege to be able to contribute. There is an anxious feeling because we don’t know what to expect as the situation develops but we’ve been shadowing foundation level doctors for a while and we know there’s going to be a lot of support available to us.”

There have also been national discussions about physiotherapy and paramedic practice students providing pre-hospital and respiratory support but, as yet, that has not been announced by the Government.

In addition, specialist members of UCLan staff have volunteered their services to clinical, laboratory or pharmacy settings within the NHS. These include microbiologists, pharmacists, molecular biologists, doctors in emergency medicine and physician associates. The University has also approved that staff who are unable to work from home, due to the nature of their work, can volunteer their services.

The University, which has the largest University health provision in Lancashire with partners across the county and into Cumbria, has also:

  • Started urgent work with the Pirbright Institute to complete research work at UCLan to produce a cheap and novel COVID-19 test, from the cutting-edge research carried out by renowned Medicinal Chemistry group
  • Identified all of its protective equipment and is discussions with the Lancashire Resilience Forum, as well as partner NHS trusts, to distribute to the appropriate sites
  • Provided a much-needed ventilator from the Clinical Skills Laboratory
  • Used its world-class School of Engineering facilities and staff to help design, manufacture and 3D print much needed pieces of personal protective and technical equipment, such as facial visors and breathing mask components
  • Utilised its large network of business connections to ensure manufacturing of equipment can scale up when the demand requires
  • Embarked on discussions about manufacturing much needed health personal protective clothing in its School of Design
  • Offered the use of medical facilities at Burnley Campus’ Victoria Mill as a temporary care site

UCLan has also been contacted about offering facilities and expertise for training current NHS staff and those who have offered to return after retirement to provide critical care support. If required, the University can offer this service on all three campus sites in Preston, Burnley and Westlakes.

UCLan Vice-Chancellor Professor Graham Baldwin said: “This is an unprecedented and hugely challenging time for our NHS and extraordinary measures are needed to fight this deadly virus.

“I know our final year medicine and nursing students have received the very best training possible, this is now their opportunity to shine and support the healthcare system at a time of great need. I’m immensely proud of every one of them, along with our staff who have offered their clinical or lab expertise or technical support.”