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Beyond the Ward: Supporting healthcare workers 3 ;

Beyond the Ward: Supporting healthcare workers

Still wanting to contribute their time to the NHS, but not yet qualified to help in a formal capacity, King’s students have teamed together with other students across the nation to develop an initiative aimed at supporting NHS staff.

NHS staff are working longer hours and have less time to manage their own personal lives during this crisis. National Health Supporters is a directory for known networks of students across the country. Students are matched with healthcare workers in their area to help those in need of free additional assistance in areas such as childcare, grocery shopping, pet sitting and providing administrative assistance at local GP practices.

The idea was first introduced by a group of students at Edinburgh University who were eager to help their local NHS Trust.

Emma Backhurst, a medical student from the Faculty of Life Sciences & Medicine at King’s, has set up and manages the regions of Surrey and Kent, alongside a fellow UCL medical student.

I wanted to lead the programme in our region as I felt I had the time and responsibility to give back to the NHS. The issue of childcare for shift workers is a problem that I have first-hand experience with, as not only am I a medical student, but also work part time at a GP practice, and I am a mother to my 18 month old son. Through the provision of daytime and out of hours childcare, we are ensuring as many health care workers can stay in work during this crisis.– Emma Backhurst

Abia Noushad, another final year medical student from the Faculty, manages the South London region with student Nivethitha Ganapathiram, also in the same year at King’s. The group has grown rapidly, with close to 2,000 members.

Beyond the Ward: Supporting healthcare workers-2
I saw that there was a similar group already in existence in North London and I got in touch with the group admin to see what I could do to help in terms of covering South London. This was in March when things were really starting to become difficult for NHS staff, and with some of the most affected hospitals in the pandemic being within King’s Health Partners in South London, it was clear this had to be put into action quickly.– Abia Noushad

The groups receive requests for assistance through Facebook pages and via email. The group leads then work to alert the student volunteers of the requests. If a volunteer can provide assistance, the group leads will facilitate the exchange of contact information, much like a job match-making service.

Rachel Harris, a final year student paramedic at St George’s, University of London, found the South London group through Facebook and since March has helped three frontline families in total who required emergency childcare through the scheme.

I was looking after a 13 month old and a three year old, as their mother is a doctor and was called to help with the pandemic. I would help three times a week, assisting with personal care, taking the children for walks and playing in the garden. Now that their key worker nursery has reopened, I am helping another family, as their usual nanny is shielding.– Rachel Harris

The directory has recently gained support of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow, who have agreed to award all student volunteers with certificates upon completion of their voluntary work.

Seeing the initiative unfold across the UK has been heart-warming. At such a tumultuous time, it is reassuring to know that so many medical students have jumped at the chance to step up and give back to the people who are usually teaching and training them.– Emma Backhurst
With the directory seeing less activity than at the start of the pandemic, we all hope to remain active and are ready to help again should anyone need support in the future, during a crisis or not.– Nivethitha Ganapathiram

You can visit the National Health Supporters’ website to find your local group.

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