A new generation of doctors about to tackle coronavirus on the frontline have been given a ‘fast track’ graduation ceremony today (Fri) – via video link.
More than 220 final year medical students from the University of Bristol were given special permission to qualify months so they can fight the pandemic.
The graduates all watched proceedings on a video conference call, with senior figures at the university officiating.
It is thought that the institution is one of the first in Britain to qualify students early – although many others are expected to follow in the coming weeks.
Once provisionally registered by the General Medical Council (GMC), the cohort will be invited to apply for jobs – likely to be in the surrounding area.
Like all new doctors, they will be supervised and mentored by more experienced colleagues and the university will also continue to provide close support.
Dedicated social media groups will also be set up for the newly qualified doctors based on their location.
Megan Kelsey, 23, is one of those who watched her graduation this afternoon – with her family sat nearby cheering her on.
The group enjoyed the virtual ceremony from the comfort of their own home in Langport, Somerset, at 4pm.
She said: “Going straight into an NHS hospital at the moment might seem quite daunting.
“However this is a job we’ve been training for five to six years and we’re all really eager to help out in this time of national crisis.
“Whilst this strain on the NHS is unprecedented, there’s equally never been a more rewarding time to start our careers as doctors.
“It’s very touching to see how the country is coming together to support the NHS and do their bit wherever they can.
“It only feels right that our skills and knowledge are put to good use where they’re most needed.”
John Gilbert also graduated as part of the cohort.
He said: “Myself and my fellow final year students want to help the NHS as much as we can.
“We have all spent five, or six years studying medicine to enter a career of serving the health of the UK.
“Many of us have already demonstrated to the Medical School and the GMC all of the necessary requirements to graduate as doctors.
“During this time of international crisis, a health crisis, we want to start work a few months early so that we can help our colleagues, help our NHS, and help our country to overcome COVID-19.
“We are ready to work; we want to help out; and we are entering a well-supported and caring community of NHS professionals who will supervise us.”
Ben Turner, another final year graduate, added: “After a minimum of five years of study, final year medical students possess fundamental skills to support our NHS colleagues at this time of national crisis.
“The cohort feels an overwhelming desire to help and graduating us early is vital to support hospitals already feeling the strain, allow the reallocation of more senior doctors to the front line and create capacity in the system as medical staff increasingly need to self-isolate.
“It is important to remember that, whilst COVID-19 cases are rising amongst the inpatient population, other unwell patients continue to present to the health service.
“Ensuring the highest standard of care for all patients remains the number one priority of everyone within the NHS family.
“Early graduation of final year nurses and medical students will reinforce the national fight against this virus.”
Dr Andrew Blythe, Bristol Medical School Programme Director, said: “We are immensely proud of our final year class who have been magnificent.
“They are well trained, capable and their positive response to the crisis has been overwhelming.
WThe staff and students have worked extremely hard to ensure that the students have completed all aspects of their training and are ready to work as junior doctors.”
Professor Jane Norman, Dean of Health Sciences, said: “Medical schools across the nation are working hard to ensure that their final year students are fully trained and ready for qualification.
“We will be one of, if not the first to qualify our students, but over the next few months many will do the same.
“With this additional workforce and all the dedicated retired staff who have recently returned to service, the NHS will be in a much stronger position to look after the nation.”
Professor Hugh Brady, Vice-Chancellor and President, added: “I am incredibly proud of our final year medical students.
“They will be an invaluable and welcome addition to our hardworking NHS medical teams during this very testing time.”
The junior doctors will predominantly be working on the wards in the hospitals clerking new patients, checking on admitted patients, assisting more senior doctors, ordering tests and checking results, prescribing drugs and undertaking procedures such as siting drips.