An Interview with a Medical Student: @fastforwardstudent

Updated: Jul 5, 2020

At AvatarJo, we had the pleasure of interviewing @fastforwardstudent, a first-year medic at Leeds Medical School. We spoke to her about several topics ranging from the impact that COVID-19 has had on her studies, to how it has shifted her perspective on medicine and what it means to be a doctor.

We asked her if this pandemic has made her question or reconsider her choice to study medicine, seeing how hard it has been for those working on the frontline. However, she said that “we have always known that healthcare staff are on the frontline, that working in the field is mentally exhausting, not paid well, and a lot of the time goes without recognition. So, in that sense it has not affected [her] decision, although it has provided the public a scoop into what life as a HCP [Health Care Professional] is like.”

“It gave me hope that though our family members are by themselves in hospital they are being taken care of by conscientious staff.”

When asked about if there had been an inspirational story or a story of triumph that she has heard during the pandemic that resonates with her and what impact it has had on her, she cited a story published on the Instagram account @ilmfeed. The story talks about an NHS doctor, Farah Farzana, who was on a night shift, when she had to review a patient who had been admitted with COVID-19. Farzana was briefed by a nurse on the Pakistani gentleman’s condition, which was severe, worsened by his state of confusion. It was only when Farzana began to speak to him did she understand the reason for this bewilderment. The man, who spoke Urdu, was unable to understand the other staff he had encountered, meaning he was panicking, not knowing what was happening.

As Farzana began to speak to him in Urdu, his “eyes [began to] fill up with tears and hope.” She was able to console and comfort him, staying by his side as long as she could within a busy hospital environment, as he felt so frightened and alone. Farzana reflects that her “heart breaks for the minority patients, with language barriers,” as without family members to translate, they must feel helpless. This amazing story truly speaks to how the NHS’ strength lies in the diversity and compassion of its staff. It is stories like these that have inspired AvatarJo’s #findtherightwords campaign, which champions these moments and helps to provide the skills to replicate this support and understanding.

@fastforwardstudent says this is an example of a “doctor that went out of her way to comfort a patient[...]” She explained that amongst the many stories she has read, this touching post really stuck with her as “it gave [her] hope that though our family members are by themselves in hospital, they are being taken care of by conscientious staff.” Furthermore, she states that it made her think of how she would like to act towards her future patients.

Talking about how she and her university have adapted to the transition from face-to-face to online teaching, she admits that it is all a bit overwhelming and was shocking at first moving completely online. However, she explains that the university has had to make a lot of changes in the way they are taught and examined. For instance, how the situation would affect their Educational Performance Measure (EMP). She confesses that it is difficult to motivate herself, a feeling most students can empathise with. One of the sources of motivation for her is other students posting inspirational advice on Instagram. She can speak to most of her friends, thanks to social media, and is also making sure to look after her mental health. To do this, she is making sure to take regular breaks and not to focus on one topic or subject for too long, ensuring her days have variety. Yet, she does feel that more events that focus on developing students’ social skills, mainly relating to patient interaction are needed. Especially given that most students have had their placements cancelled, as it would help to ease them back into a clinical setting.

“[…]I've realised is that as a doctor your job is not just to treat the patient but it's also to comfort them where you can, because I've realised that a healthy mental state is important for a healthy physical state.”

Our final question was whether she felt like she has grown as a young medic or whether her thinking has altered in response to this pandemic. Her response was extremely inspiring, as it exemplified how she has used this time as a learning experience, drawing valuable lessons from it, that will impact on her future career. She expressed that her thinking has indeed shifted and she now realises the intrinsic value of communication with other medics, explaining it is essential to see what is going on at other hospitals in order to incorporate them at your own. Something that really stood out to us was when she explained that she has become aware that “as a doctor your job is not just to treat the patient but it’s also to comfort them where you can” because she acknowledges that “a healthy mental state is important for a healthy physical state.” Moreover, she has rendered more open to change and variation in light of how fast guidelines on PPE, drugs, visitation etc. have been changing, also highlighting the need for medics to keep up with the news.

On a more negative note, she remarks about how she has realised how prolific racism is within the healthcare industry. She laments the government’s failure to respond to messages from BAME doctors, stating that “it felt as though they only began looking into the higher mortality rates amongst the BAME UK population once the Black Lives Matter protests began and people began demanding it.” Then, she went onto explain how she has learnt from this experience that health factors are not always the reason for a higher mortality rate, it is also influenced by socio-economic factors too, including racial bias.

It was really our pleasure to speak to @fastforwardstudent and we would like to thank her for her time. It is amazing to see young medics using their platform to address topics that matter and educate others in the industry!

If you would be interested in being interviewed for either #MedStudentMonday or #TakeoverTuesday, we would absolutely love for you to get in touch (DM us on Instagram @avatarjo_medical). As a thank you for your time we will send you a voucher to participate in one of our extra special events that will be taking place at the end of July – stay tuned for more information.

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