Being a newly qualified doctor…

…by Georgia / from Scotland / studied MBChB Medicine / graduated early in 2020

I am Georgia, a newly qualified doctor having just graduated from the University of Edinburgh. I went to school in Edinburgh and attended various Reach events before applying to medicine. You may have seen me helping at Reach events over the past few years and I have now been asked to give you an overview of how COVID-19 has affected my final year as a medical student.

I am usually someone who likes to be well organised and have a concise plan for my time. But along with most people in the UK, and the rest of the world, my Summer 2020 plans (both personal and professional) have been thrown into complete disarray.

If you had asked me what my plans for 2020 were in January, I would have told you I had my final medical exams in February. I then had a 6 week assistantship; a placement shadowing an FY1 to learn more about how to do the job, for example writing discharge letters or making referrals. After my assistantship I had planned a 6 week placement in Zambia, Africa. This would take place in both the capital, Lusaka following which I would stay with a host family learning about rural medicine in Africa. I booked this elective, along with 2.5 weeks travelling about 2 years ago and was going to spend a total of 8.5 weeks away. At the end of June I was going to return home to graduate surrounded by friends and family before starting work in August.

Most of the above has understandably been cancelled.

Thankfully I sat my final exams in February as planned and I am delighted to have passed (I know of students that had their final practical exams cancelled or brought forward 6 weeks). 1 week into my assistantship at RIE I was pulled out of placement due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Everyone in my year who had passed their exams was asked if they would be willing to volunteer to work in the hospital during the pandemic.

Georgia (1)

On the 8th of April I had an online graduation ceremony. I streamed the ceremony on my living room TV whilst on FaceTime to my parents so they could watch as we are isolating separately.

The usual process of registering doctors involves applying to the GMC in April, graduating in June and starting work in August. For the FiY1’s this year, we graduated, applied to the GMC and were granted registration all within 3 days. This process has never happened before!

I have volunteered for an FiY1 position within NHS Lothian and started working as a doctor on the 13th of April rather than August as planned. Being a doctor is what I have been working towards through 3 years of school exams and 6 years of medical school so for me it was a very easy decision to volunteer. The FiY1 (interim FY1) position is essentially a temporary junior doctor contracted to work from April until July. I will then move to my chosen job at Monklands hospital in August. After a very busy final year with 24 weeks of placement and 6 exams we now have 2 weeks of annual leave this summer and 2 weeks off before starting our planned jobs in August.

Although it has all been quite mad, there is an amazing sense of camaraderie within the health service right now. Final year medical students who are not working are giving teaching to 4th and 5th year medical students. Younger students are volunteering as health care assistants or giving free child care to NHS workers and over 100 people in my year volunteered to start work 4 months early.

During the last major pandemic, Spanish Influenza, in WW1, everyone was fighting against each other. This time we are definitely fighting together.

Reach Edinburgh is a Widening Participation (WP) project for eligible S4-S6 secondary school pupils in south east Scotland interested in pursuing a career in law, medicine or vet medicine. It is part of the national Reach Scotland project, jointly run by the Universities of Aberdeen, Dundee, Glasgow and St Andrews and funded by the Scottish Funding Council (SFC).

You can find out more about Reach Edinburgh and access our pupil resources at edin.ac/reach

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