A junior doctor – and GDST alumna – describes life on the medical front line during the global pandemic
Graduating in the Summer of 2019, none of us knew what lay ahead. A cohort of brand new doctors started out in our first year working in hospitals across the country and I made the big move to begin my job in a busy London hospital. There are many fears about starting work as a junior doctor; from the increased responsibility to simply finding my way round a new hospital and working with new people each day. By February, I felt I was finding my feet; enjoying my work and life in the capital. I think back to when the first patients with Coronavirus came into the hospital – there was fear but life carried on.
However, within a week everything changed. Colleagues were becoming ill themselves and I was transferred from one department to another to provide cover. I was pleased to be able to help ease the workload for my colleagues and thankful I could use clinical skills to help. Yet I was anxious about the risk of infection, high workload and emotional strain when looking after these patients.
As a doctor in my first year of training I provided medical cover to the wards out of hours and at night. I was working on night shifts in those early weeks and every patient I saw was COVID positive. The team pulled together and we worked hard for our patients; treating them, caring for them and being their advocate. I remember the sound of my bleep going all through the night with my nursing colleagues asking for medical reviews of their patients. I remember running down dimly lit corridors with blood samples to run tests. I remember confirming that the worst had happened and trying to provide support to families.
And then there was more support for us: a brand new year group of doctors stepped up – forfeiting their graduation celebrations; those that retired returned to clinical practice; mothers left their new-borns to come back from their maternity leave early. We worked closely in teams; I was supported at difficult times and decisions were never made alone. Every Thursday at 8pm I would be on the edge of tears walking towards the start or end of my shift and hearing the applause of those staying at home. Food donations were pouring in to the hospital so that after a 13 hours shift I could sleep rather than queue for the supermarket round the corner.
Then things started to ease, we were treating fewer and fewer patients with the virus even when lockdown was easing. There were more people with me on the platform as I waited for my train to work. Colleagues returned to their previous departments and the bleep became quieter.
My story won’t be different to the scores of GDST women working in healthcare settings across the world. It has been a time of the very darkest nights yet there have been some moments of hope. We have had to be adaptable, determined and empathetic. I hope I have done my profession proud.