What I've learnt from COVID-19 as a medical student

Back in January of this year, many of us were still rooted in the routine of medical school, whether it was anatomy labs or biochemistry lectures. Little did we know that we would soon be experiencing a new normal – one with movement restrictions, daily death count announcements, and constant news briefings. However, despite the pressures faced by those in the healthcare sector, there are some very important lessons to be learnt from this pandemic; many things that medical school couldn’t have possibly taught us. Here are a few that I’ve learnt for myself:

1. The general public has a lot of love for the NHS

The British public have united on their front porches, balconies, and windows to clap for the NHS. There are NHS signs in shop displays, rainbows in house windows, and hair salons have been donating their spare hospital-grade surgical masks for hospitals short of personal protective equipment (PPE). All of us are incredibly grateful for the work the NHS does, and the work they have done is not going to be forgotten any time soon. As medical students, we are the future front-liners of the NHS, and sometimes, this may seem daunting. However, it’s important to remember how much people value, cherish and look up to healthcare professionals. While medical school teaches us how to look after patients, this pandemic has shown us just how much we mean to our patients. The truth is, the public has a great deal of love for the NHS; we can only hope to keep this close to our hearts and never forget this no matter how hard times get.

2. We’re a lot more helpful than we think we are

Extraordinarily, more than 500,000 people signed up to volunteer during the COVID-19 crisis. Often in medical school, we go on placements and simply observe. However, now medical students have found themselves in roles where they’ve been making very hands-on contributions, whether they serve as volunteer porters, healthcare assistants, or even assist in COVID-19 related research in labs. These days may pass, but in the future, it’s important to remember just how helpful we can be in the multidisciplinary team as medical students. This pandemic has given us a renewed sense of confidence. Though we should always stick to the limits of our own competence, we are valued members of a team and even the listening ear that we’re sometimes asked to provide can be extremely helpful and we should never forget that.