‘We’ll do anything to help’

Jess McClintick playing rugby for edinburgh

One Edinburgh University Ladies Rugby Club (EULRFC) star is rolling her sleeves up on the front line of the NHS’ bid to tackle the Coronavirus pandemic. 

Jess McClintick is among the medical students who found out they had passed their final university exams last week, and will begin as a junior doctor during the Coronavirus outbreak. 

The 22-year-old explained to SCRUM: “We found out we had passed finals last Monday and then later in the week we got an email that said ‘would you guys be open to starting FY1 in April to help with the Coronavirus efforts’ and then in the same email, it said anyone on the staff bank – which I’m on – we’d be grateful if you could help. 

“So I’m a CSW (Care Support Worker) on the staff bank and I’m just doing that in the interim between finishing finals and starting as an FY1. I’m just on the wards helping patients get dressed, showered, eating, and the basics.”

McClintick, who can be found at fullback for EULRFC when she’s not studying, or practicing, medicine, also gave her account of working for the NHS in the last fortnight. 

“I move between a few wards – I did a shift in the COVID-19 assessment ward last week. They split half the ward, so it was half people getting swabbed and initial treatment and the other half was people who had been stabilised and were waiting to find out test results. 

“That was a bit surreal because it wasn’t quite busy yet, but they were preparing for it. The ambulance crews were coming in with full PPE – masks, gloves – but when I’m doing shifts in other wards, they are trying to empty them and discharge anyone who doesn’t absolutely need to be there, in the hope that it frees up nursing staff. 

“It’s a bit hectic but it feels in some way like the calm before the storm.”

She insists that staff are in “really good spirits,” but admits there is some frustration with members of the public who are not heeding the advice of Prime Minister Boris Johnson and limiting all-but-essential social contact. 

“There’s a lot of speculation amongst the staff about what’s going to go on, when it will end and that kind of thing, but the vibe in general is ‘we’re just going to have to do what we can’.

“There’s a bit of an annoyance at the wider public – a couple of times we’ve been chatting and people have said ‘when I was coming in today, I saw a group of six people walking’ and you just want to stop them and tell them to stop. 

“I think generally the morale is really good, but it does feel like the calm before the storm because a lot of wards are emptier than they normally are.”

And while McClintick admits to being slightly daunted about starting their professional careers during the Coronavirus pandemic, she knows that she – and the thousands of other junior doctors across the UK in a similar position – are ready. 

“On paper we are ready to go but it’s a lack of experience that would make you feel much more comfortable going in,” she said. 

“We don’t really know what’s going to happen, whether it’s the next month or six months, so that’s vaguely comforting. 

“As cringey as it sounds, we all did medicine because we want to help, so I think that’s all we can try to do in the next few months.”

Her efforts come with some personal sacrifice, with McClintick unable to see her family for the foreseeable future. 

“My dad is immunosuppressed and so my parents and my brother are staying at home and I’m just in my flat by myself. 

“It is a bit lonely sometimes but it’s what you have to do. I don’t want to give it to anybody, especially not someone in my family.”

Image caption: Jess McClintick in action for SCRUM RP, the 7s team founded by Rugby People last summer. Image credit: Adrian Henry/Rugby People

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