First-year medical students are joining the NHS to help support staff in hospitals and field hospitals dealing with the coronavirus pandemic.
The students started their degree courses at Swansea University in September and have now signed up as healthcare support workers, a Band 2 role within NHS Wales.
They will be supporting colleagues at Swansea Bay University Health Board by carrying out basic care needs for patients, such as hygiene, food and observations.
Up to 3,800 healthcare students from across Wales are joining the NHS workforce, with their roles reflecting their skills and the stage they have reached in their training.
More than 2,000 former health and social care professionals have re-registered, while many staff not currently working on the “shop floor” have completed courses in order to do so.
Hundreds attended training sessions at Swansea’s Liberty Stadium last week, with the large venue meaning people were able to learn while observing social distancing.
Paul Lee, medical devices training manager at Swansea Bay University Health Board, described how people had felt the “calling” to help amid the coronavirus pandemic.
“They see it as a call to arms and as an organisation, we provide them with the support they need and all the training that we expect to give any normal member of staff, albeit in a fast-track and condensed way,” Mr Lee said.
“We have people ringing us up and asking to come on the course. We started these courses two weeks ago and they are fully booked for the next three or four weeks.”
If I can go in and be of some help to someone, that's great - it doesn't matter if it's not doing something medical, even if I'm just someone to chat toFirst-year medical student Charlie Nicholls
Mr Lee said the students, including those in their first year, would be providing “the fundamentals of care” during their role as healthcare support workers.
“They will be doing everything from donning and doffing of PPE (personal protective equipment), hand-washing, looking after a patient’s feeding, managing their care and their needs,” he said.
“There is an awful lot of medical terminology used in the hospital – such as measure a patient’s blood pressure, take their obs and sats – that a medical student will understand straight away.
“It’s bringing people in with the background knowledge and giving them a new role within the levels of their competence.”
The students volunteered to apply for the healthcare support worker role.
They will be able to undertake shifts once pre-employment checks are completed, they have finished the induction programme and manual handling training, and a shadow shift.
First-year medical student Charlie Nicholls, 23, from Berkshire, said her cohort were due to be going on placement in hospitals at this time.
“If I can go in and be of some help to someone, that’s great – it doesn’t matter if it’s not doing something medical, even if I’m just someone to chat to,” she said.
“I want to play a part, I want to be able to say that I’ve done something to help and hopefully make some sort of a difference.”
Slade Badenhorste, 22, from Derbyshire, is also a first-year medical student at Swansea University.
“We were offered a position by the university to help relieve some of the pressure in hospitals and potentially some of the field hospitals,” he said.
“As medical students, they can push us through the training a bit quicker and we do have clinical experience – we’ve been on wards.
“If I can help, why wouldn’t I?”