Students support hospital doctors during pandemic
In a first for NSW, a group of 12 final-year medical students from The University of Notre Dame Australia joined the team at St Vincent’s Hospital Sydney to provide support during the coronavirus pandemic.
Called Assistants in Medicine the program will see students work two eight-hour shifts a week over the next six months, supporting medical teams across a range of areas from cardiology and neurology to the emergency department, general practice and in medical clerical roles.
“I’m very proud that the Notre Dame medicine students who are part of the St Vincent’s Clinical School have led the way in NSW with this program,” says Associate Professor Anthony Schembri AM, chief executive officer of St Vincent’s Health Network Sydney.
The idea for the program was set in train earlier this year when the COVID-19 pandemic began and universities and hospitals began to think of ways medical schools and students could address the need for additional support.
The collaboration between the University of Notre Dame and University of New South Wales Schools of Medicine and St Vincent’s, with the blessing of the NSW Department of Heath, creates paid positions for final-year medical students within the hospital system, to help alleviate some of the stress on healthcare workers.
While the worst case pandemic scenario has not eventuated in NSW, the initiative has proceeded, offering students the opportunity to gain professional experience while completing their studies.
“It was a great cooperative effort between Notre Dame, UNSW and St Vincent’s,” says Associate Professor Ray Garrick, Head of St Vincent’s and Mater Clinical School. “Dr Sarah Michael, St Vincent’s Deputy Director of Medical Services (Junior Medical Officers), was hugely thoughtful and always kept the students’ best interests at heart.”
Final-year student Kirsty Fuller joined the Emergency Department on Monday 29 June. “I was the very first cab off the rank at St. Vincent’s, completing the first AIM shift in the hospital, so I really didn’t know what to expect,” she said. “So far, it has been a great experience and the whole ED team are friendly and approachable.
Kirsty signed up for the program because she was keen to gain experience working in a busy hospital environment before her internship begins in January 2021. “The added benefit is that we are helping the hospital team with jobs that often slow them down,” she said.
Fellow student Conor Honeywill is working evening shifts on the wards alongside residents. “I think the AIM position will ease the transition from student to doctor, and is a great opportunity to build on the practical skills I will need as an intern next year while helping to reduce the workload for current doctors,” he said.
“My first shift was both exciting and humbling. In the first five minutes the resident I was with was called to a rapid response, which provided a unique insight into how they manage complex situations. It also allowed me to identify the best way I can help them in that situation.”
“It allowed me to identify the best way I can help them”
Anthony Schembri said he was “thrilled” to welcome the first intake of students. “This program is a win-win for everyone,” he said.
“The new roles will provide invaluable support to our busy medical teams, and likewise the AIMs will commence their medical careers with a great advantage – but the ultimate beneficiaries will be our community.”
Acting Dean of the School of Medicine, Sydney, Professor Steevie Chan agreed. “The program gives students an opportunity to consolidate their training in a well-supported and well-supervised real-life working situation,” he said.