Dozens of Dundee students graduating early to aid NHS coronavirus effort

Rachael Long and Emma Box

More than 100 medical students at Dundee University are graduating early this week - to enable them to aid the NHS with the coronavirus pandemic.

Normally, students graduate in June, but it has been brought forward so the students can register early with the General Medical Council, and joint the NHS workforce immediately, as needed.

Emma Box and Rachael Logan are fifth-year representatives and are among the new graduates.

They said the circumstances of graduation were unusual but that they and their contemporaries were ready to start life as qualified doctors.

Emma, 24, from Linlithgow, said: "Starting work as a doctor is always going to be daunting. For the many new graduates joining the NHS workforce, the biggest difference is the uncertainty that has come with this. 

"It's strange not knowing whether we'll still be sitting in our pyjamas doing cross-stitch this time next week or if we'll have a new prefix to our name and be on the wards as part of the team of 'key workers' we've all been watching on the news.

"However, this uncertainty is no different to what everyone else in the country is facing right now so it's easiest just to take it one day at a time and wait for the governing bodies to let us know if and when we can help.

"I think it's important for everyone, my fellow medical students as well as the general public, to remember that we're as ready as we'll ever be to start work as doctors.

"They're not recruiting people who aren't quite qualified, it's just about speeding up the official processing to allow people who have completed their training to start work slightly sooner than usual. This is what we've trained for, and we're as ready as we can be."

Rachael, 24, from Glasgow, said: "It is all a bit surreal at the moment, but that is the case for everyone. We would have been looking forward to graduation in the summer and getting to celebrate with our friends and family, before starting work in August, but the current situation has changed that. 

"We don't quite know what is about to happen next. We've been invited to apply to start work early, but we don't know how soon that's going to happen, where exactly we'll be asked to work or what's going to be expected of us, but hopefully that all becomes clear soon.

"It's a daunting prospect that hasn't really sunk in yet, but we've had five years of training to prepare so we should be in a good position to help when we're needed."

Professor Rory McCrimmon, Dean of the School of Medicine at Dundee, said: "The NHS is facing a crisis like we have never seen, and it requires as much help as we can muster. To that end we have accelerated the graduation of our final-year students.

"It is certainly an unusual graduation for them, and we will look to give them a full celebration of their achievements when such events can be arranged again. But for the moment their help may be needed urgently and they are now in position to do that as qualified doctors. 

"We are really proud of our medical students in Dundee. We involve them in clinical practice almost from day one and I am confident they will make a real contribution to the NHS during this crisis."

Professor Maggie Bartlett, chair of education in general practice and head of the undergraduate division in the School of Medicine, said: "Our new graduates are ready to answer the call of the NHS.

"We know it has been disappointing for them, at it is for all final-year students this year, that the normal Graduation ceremony is not happening in June but these really are unprecedented times and require an urgent response.

"We are very proud of our new doctors, they deserve our heartfelt congratulations on their graduation, and we are hopeful we will be able to organise a full celebration at some point down the line."

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