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Newly-graduated medics start clinical placements early

Final-year medical students Adam Townson and Milan Kapur talk about their experiences as interim junior doctors
Adam Townson

In March this year, as the potential impact of COVID-19 on UK healthcare resources became clearer, final-year medical students across the country graduated early to join the NHS workforce. We caught up with two King’s medics, Adam Townson and Milan Kapur, to hear about their experiences to date. For both, the past eight weeks have been an intense but very positive time. Adam is working at Hinchingbrooke Hospital, near Huntingdon, and Milan at Southend Hospital in Essex.

‘We were told in mid-March that there would be no final exams, and that we were graduating early,’ says Milan. ‘Initially in some ways not having exams was a relief - but we were in the midst of the pandemic unfolding, and it was clear things weren’t good. The opportunity to sign up for the Foundation Interim Programme run by the NHS and start work as a qualified doctor early was voluntary, but I knew I wanted to play a part and be of help if I could. And we weren’t due to start work formally until August - leaving medical school in March and not setting foot in a hospital again for five months meant we risked losing skills.’

Both medics started work at the hospitals they are due to join in the summer. Adam is working on an acute medicine ward at Hinchingbrooke, dealing with respiratory problems. He arrived when the hospital was settling into a more steady state, after the initial concerns about the NHS being overwhelmed. ‘There were COVID patients on the ward, but in separate rooms, and as interim junior doctors we have no exposure to COVID hot areas. Mostly I’m dealing with patients who are suffering from complaints such as pneumonia, heart failure or punctured lungs.’ Milan is working on a gastroenterology ward at Southend. ‘In some ways by the time we arrived the new grads were supernumerary, but that’s good - the NHS hadn’t been overwhelmed. And we are benefiting from the most incredible training, with the opportunity to really learn how to do the job properly before we start our formal placements in August.’

They reflect on how well-supported they have been throughout - with attachments to junior doctors working the same shifts, who can answer immediate questions, and also by the Medical School. ‘They prepared us very well. And they are giving pastoral support - there was a concern, as the Interim Programme was set up at such speed and with all the demands on the hospitals, that we might get thrown in without enough help, so the University has been providing this.’

Both were sad not to have been able to round off their six years at Cambridge in the normal way, and say goodbye to friends, but see these weeks as having given them a unique opportunity. As Milan says, ‘I’m very glad to have had the chance to start work now, and have these extra months. It’s taught me so much - it’s been an incredibly positive experience. And definitely something to talk about in years to come!’

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