Volunteering with the NHS during a Pandemic - What is it really like?

With our country facing one of the biggest challenges in history, it was no doubt that an army of volunteers would be required to support our beloved NHS as it is stretched beyond measure. We wanted to share first-hand experiences of medical students volunteering in the NHS to help give you an insight into what it is really like, dispelling some of the myths and showing how you can make a difference.

Kwarteng Sarfo's Experience

In 2014 when I started this medical school journey, I honestly didn’t think this is how it would end. Medical finals reduced to three online tests, a respiratory illness sweeping the nation and a bunch of Instagram challenges. Regardless though, I have seen the good in it. I have seen the hidden side of the NHS. Following my graduation, a week ago, I decided to volunteer, hoping to provide assistance to the various sectors within Imperial NHS Trust that needed. Part of it was the innate altruism that I regurgitated during my medical school interview, but I will be honest, I needed to get out of the house. 24 hours with the family was getting a bit too much. Before I left, I received some serious prayers from my worried mother, in addition to the misleading WhatsApp messages sent from the aunties and uncles, about how to deal with coronavirus. You could say I was “ready” to do what I could to tackle coronavirus. Sunday evening, I moved into the Imperial provided accommodation and completed our online induction modules because you know, social distancing. Later on, I got the email detailing my allocation. “You have been allocated to the Surgery cancer and cardiovascular management department” The who of the who department?

I thought I was going to be honing my skills of cannulation, venepuncture and catheterisation because when I thought “shortage” I thought it meant only “clinical shortage.” I was wrong. For the past week I have been working as a validator tasked with two jobs:

Job number 1

⁃ In normal circumstances, when doctors see a patient, in addition to writing structured notes they are supposed to conclude the consultation. In broad terms, a patient is either discharged or in need of a flow up. Unfortunately considering the ongoing pandemic, this task has been left incomplete by many doctors. This is where I come in. My first task in simple terms, is to look through past consultation and assign a conclusion to the case. This involves looking through clinical notes and making a decision of finality or continuity