Lancaster Medical School graduates working in the NHS II

Dr Megan Prince
Dr Megan Prince - Class of 2020

In early March, Megan was on her Emergency Medicine rotation at Royal Blackburn Hospital’s A&E department. Patients were already coming in with possible coronavirus diagnoses, with paramedics arriving in full hazmat suits. This was before the seriousness of the disease was fully appreciated, and organising the hospital to cope was just beginning. It was a crazy time.

There were rumours flying around that final year medical students were going to be graduated early and sent to help out on the frontline as interim-Foundation Doctors (FY1) but no one really believed it was going to happen. Then one evening driving back from Blackburn, she got the email: That was exactly what was going to happen.

It was a very confusing time as they didn’t know where they were going to go. They were offered a choice: To be placed where they would have been sent in August, or remain working across the four regional hospitals (the Royal Lancaster Infirmary, Furness General Hospital, Blackpool Victoria Hospital, or Royal Blackburn Hospital). Megan chose to be placed where she would have gone in a normal year but even then, the way that regions and jobs are allocated, meant that she wasn’t certain of going to her preferred West Yorkshire. Luckily, she did, and was placed at Airedale General Hospital, just north of Keighley.

The move to Airedale was made a little bit easier by her Lancaster landlord who told her that going to help out on the frontline response meant she didn’t need to pay the last term’s rent. That bit of a financial cushion was a massive deal in helping her get set up.

Starting as an interim-Foundation Doctor (a role that had not existed before), in a hospital where all the current FY1 doctors had been redeployed, and everything was different, should have been incredibly challenging. But there was such a sense of morale, of everyone pulling together. Her new job was surgery, and just because of the way rotations had worked out, she hadn’t done a lot of it. Now, due to the cancellation of all elective surgeries, all surgery was emergency. But again, because of redeployments, Core Trainee surgical doctors had been moved back onto the wards (technically a step down for them), and so she got to learn from more experienced surgeons than might otherwise have been the case.

Getting used to a new hospital and new ways of working (computer systems, where things were) was made easier by an Advanced Nurse Practitioner who had been at Airedale for 11 years. He took the new graduates under his wing and made the transition as easy as he could.

Amongst the many challenges of working during the pandemic, one surprising one was a consequence of always working wearing a facemask: Being new in the hospital, and meeting so many new people all wearing masks, she found that she could spend a shift working alongside them, and then not recognise them in the canteen. But it’s a small thing.

What she’s really found is that Lancaster Medical School has prepared her better than she could have ever thought. On one of her first days on the job, concerned that she might not be able to cope, someone took her to one side and told her not to worry because ‘Lancaster makes great doctors’. And so it has turned out: Lancaster has ingrained in her ways of working and knowledge that she relies on every day. And having so much ward time in fifth year means she knows how to write a discharge letter, or put in a cannula – things other recent graduates might not.

Now, three months after starting at Airedale, Megan is about to begin her first job as a full FY1 doctor on surgical night shifts.

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