Junior doctor: Clap for carers put “fire in our bellies”

By Julia Gregory, Local Democracy Reporter

A new graduate from medical school who is stepping up to help the NHS deal with the coronavirus crisis said the public’s reaction has “put fire in our belly”.

But he warned it is essential that new doctors get supervision and emotional support as they face the tough days ahead.

Stephen Naulls, who lives in Hammersmith, is one of 300 new doctors who have just graduated from Imperial College’s School of Medicine and are preparing for a very challenging entry to the NHS front line.

The 24-year-old, from Grimsby, said: “I am frightened, I am nervous, I have trepidation. It’s forcing me to face all the feelings I would have had in August if I had started then, as normal.”

But the Clap for Carers nationwide gesture, where people throughout the country applauded the front line carers, touched him and his fellow medical graduates.

Dr Stephen Naulls

Dr Naulls said: “For me and my friends it was very inspiring and it gave us fire in the belly. It confirmed the decision to help.”

The college allowed them to sit their finals at home because of the coronavirus crisis.

And Imperial College has also offered them student accommodation as most medical students have 10-month contracts with their landlords.

Dr Naulls has trained in hospitals throughout West London, with stints at the A&E department at Charing Cross Hospital as well as time at St Mary’s in Paddington, Hammersmith, Ealing and Hillingdon hospitals.

The regulator the General Medical Council will be registering them in the next few weeks – speeding up the system so they can join the NHS front line early.

“We were meant to be starting our foundation training, the first two years as the most junior of junior doctors,” said Dr Naulls.

Like other medical students before the virus, Dr Naulls had been planning a few months relaxing and spending time with his family “after a difficult two years” of exams, study and training in hospitals.

He had planned to spend eight weeks working in psychiatry and neurology – a field he might like to work in ultimately –  in a hospital in the Ugandan capital in Kampala, and had anticipated starting work in East London in August.

He is now waiting to see where he will be deployed.

“What’s different though is that hopefully thousands of doctors will start three or four months early.”

And he added: “We have a moral obligation to help.”

But he stressed that if the government has declared war on the virus it is essential “the troops have adequate equipment”.

He said: “I share my colleagues’ concerns about access to equipment and testing for coronavirus.”

He also called on the public to help too by sticking to the medical advice – staying in and washing their hands thoroughly.

“Everyone can do their bit. People who do not have any medical training can follow the medical advice, and people who have been privileged to have medical training can do all they can to stem the flow of the virus.”

Top: Hammersmith hospital, where Dr Naulls spent time training


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