Portsmouth students join St. Mary’s Hospital to respond to coronavirus pandemic

Nine students from the University of Portsmouth have joined St. Mary’s Hospital in Newport on the Isle of Wight to help respond to the coronavirus pandemic.

The students are working as student Physician Associates to support doctors in the diagnosis and management of hospital patients and have volunteered to work alongside the clinical teams at St. Mary’s during this time.

Physician Associates can be found working in GP surgeries, accident and emergency departments and inpatient medical and surgical wards throughout the UK and are trained to perform a number of duties such as taking medical histories, performing examinations, analysing test results, and diagnosing illnesses under the direct supervision of a doctor.

Dr Donna Dalgetty, Course Leader MSc Physician Associate Studies at University of Portsmouth is working on the wards with the students. Dr Dalgetty, said: “I am immensely proud of our students for joining us on the frontline here at St. Mary's during this challenging time.

“They have proved to be a welcome addition to the medical teams. I am also very grateful to all at the Trust for their warmth and support for this new role, especially our foundation doctors who have been offering bespoke teaching to the students in their lunch breaks.”

Dr Mark Pugh, Consultant Rheumatologist at St. Mary’s Hospital and a Professor at the University of Portsmouth, said: “Physician Associates are a relatively new type of clinician for the NHS, but have been contributing to U.S. healthcare for about 70 years.

“Working with doctors to a medical model of health they can really increase the quality of care we offer to our patients on the Island. I am so proud of the way the students, some of whom I teach through my link with the University, have thrown themselves in their role with enthusiasm, good humour and increasing skill. We need more Physician Associates working on the Island in primary and secondary care.”

Speaking of their experience so far, Physician Associate student, Megan, said: “I have felt really welcomed and supported since coming here and I am learning a lot from the junior doctors too.”

Haji said: “I was worried that I wouldn't know anything but I really wanted to help patients and colleagues with the pandemic.”

Peter said: “Getting used to the PPE whilst caring for COVID patients has been scary at times but everyone is supportive and ensuring that we are always safe and get plenty of breaks.”

Dr Victor Lawrence, Consultant Physician in Endocrinology and Diabetes Mellitus has been working with the students as they treat patients who have covid-19 as well as those with other emergency medical conditions. Dr Lawrence, said: “They are brilliant and it has been such a privilege to work with the team we currently have.”

The Isle of Wight NHS Trust is advanced in its approach to developing its workforce and has already welcomed two qualified Physician Associates to the Trust in the last four months.

Alistair Flowerdew, Isle of Wight NHS Trust Medical Director, said: “Physician Associates not only increase the capacity of our medical workforce but also increase access to quality care for our patients. They are a real asset to the team and I hope they thoroughly enjoy their time working with us.”

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