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On the NHS Covid-19 front lines

On to the wards: Rachel Daly, a recently qualified medical doctor, was thrown into the deep end at Russells Hall Hospital just outside Birmingham, during a work-study programme (Photograph supplied)

On becoming a doctor, Rachel Daly was immediately thrown in at the deep end, treating patients with Covid-19 in Britain. She put in the time at Russells Hall Hospital just outside Birmingham, England, having been involved in a work-study programme there only in April. “That was quite scary at first, because I hadn’t been in hospitals since before everything had gotten really bad,” the 24-year-old said this week.“I didn’t know what to expect. I didn’t know what the situation with personal protective equipment would be at my hospital.”It didn’t help that friends who graduated the year before she did, had contracted the disease while working in hospitals “before we really knew what Covid-19 was”.However her nervousness dissipated as she got on with the job.“The standard in England was that you had to use a surgical mask if you were on a Covid-19 ward, and then wear a proper FFP3 mask when you spoke to or examined patients,” Dr Daly said, describing the mask as a respirator that filters out 99 per cent of particles in the air.“At Russells Hall you had to wear the FFP3 even if you were just in the common area of the ward.“I felt more safe with that. They also taught us how to clean our clothes after work, and to always have hand sanitiser around.“Every time we went to a ward we had to change our masks.”Dr Daly added: “And now it is law that even in the hallways you have to wear masks.“Russells Hall Hospital is quite cautious and has done quite well.”She was assigned to the urology and general surgical wards on her return to the hospital for a 19-day stint last month.“The General Medical Council, the body that oversees all doctors in the United Kingdom, created the interim Foundation 1 doctor role for newly qualified doctors like me, to assist with the Covid-19 pandemic between graduating and starting their usual Foundation 1 jobs at the end of July,” she said. On a typical day she would arrive at 8am and join a team making rounds.She would prepare notes of the more experienced doctors’ decisions and examination findings. “After we saw all of the patients we would figure out what jobs we needed to do for the day to look after everyone, and then get on with those jobs,” she said. “At the end of the day I had to make a summary of what had been done to give to the overnight team. Afterward I went home, showered, and put my clothes in the laundry on high heat.”With many routine procedures cancelled in fear of putting too much stress on the hospital, some wards were overstaffed. Having Dr Daly and other new doctors present allowed more experienced medical staff to take time off.“Even though you learn all the conditions in medical school it is different when it is in practice,” she said. “Although it has been a bit of a shock to start early, I learnt a lot.“I learnt, most importantly, what was expected of me as a Foundation 1 doctor. This included getting to the ward early to prepare the patients’ notes, writing up a thorough to-do list for the day and knowing how an on-call shift works.”Many of her neighbours hung pictures of rainbows in their windows to show their support of the National Health Service staff and other essential workers. “It made me quite proud to be coming into this healthcare system and this profession,” she said. With her work at Russells Hall Hospital complete, Dr Daly is planning a visit home to see family before she joins Walsall Manor Hospital at the end of the month.She will spend the next two years doing six different jobs in the hospital, to give her a range of experience as part of the Foundation 1 programme which is designed to help young doctors decide what area of medicine they want to pursue. Dr Daly was inspired by a talk endocrinologist Annabel Fountain gave on diabetes while she was a student at the Bermuda High School for Girls.“We have so many people on the island with diabetes,” she said. “That is what made me first interested with endocrinology. When I studied it more, in university, I thought, ‘I really like this field!’.”Eventually, she would like to come back home to work.“We have a diabetes epidemic in Bermuda, so having more endocrinologists would be great to help with that,” she said. “It would be really nice to come and support the community I grew up in.”Passionate about her work, she hopes that one day she will similarly inspire others to join the medical profession.“When I went through the university application process it was new and luckily I had my family who helped me prepare for interviews and exams,” she said. “Now there are quite a few of us studying. I would encourage anyone who wants to study medicine to reach out to me, or anyone who has studied medicine.“We do need more Bermudian doctors. I have really enjoyed my time at university and I think it is a great profession to go into.”• Students considering entering the field of medicine can contact Rachel Daly on rachelxdaly456@gmail.com