Student doctors are having their graduations fast-tracked so they can help tackle the coronavirus crisis, it emerged last week.
Among them are about 220 students from Bristol University’s medical school, who will be missing overseas placements to join the NHS in the coming weeks.
One of them is final-year student Megan Kelsey, 23, who said: “It is a bit nerve-wracking to be going into hospitals where the virus is.
“But it’s what we’ve been trained for.”
The medical students would normally qualify as doctors in July, but a national scheme has been launched to bring this date forward.
Although it isn’t compulsory for student doctors to sign up to join the NHS early, the vast majority from the Bristol cohort are choosing to do so.
They will be posted in the region – or deanery – they already have experience of, so in hospitals either in Bristol, Bath, Swindon, Taunton, Gloucester, Yeovil, Cheltenham and Weston-super-Mare.
As one in four NHS staff is currently off sick or in isolation, they will provide much-needed support.
They are expected to handle non-coronavirus cases, freeing up the more experienced doctors to tackle the pandemic.
Ms Kelsey had been due to help at a community clinic in Belize this summer, and then help provide vaccines and basic healthcare to remote communities in Panama.
She said: “To be honest, myself and lots of my friends did shed a few tears when we realised we couldn’t go. The elective is always the highlight of any medical student’s training.
“But then we understood very rapidly how we were needed to help the NHS, and we were all very keen to do so.”
She added that her friends who were already doctors in hospitals in the region were warning things were going to get busier in the next few weeks.
She said: “I am expecting to start work in the next few weeks, hopefully at a hospital in Bristol or Bath.”
Ben Turner, 23, had been due to learn about healthcare in Tanzania and Cuba but from next week is likely be employed as a foundation year interim doctor.
He said: “Students at Bristol University sat their finals in December, so we are qualified to help.
“We are having an online graduation with the vice-chancellor this week, then we can get registered as doctors and apply for posts.
“It’s a bit nerve-wracking, but we will get lots of support and mentoring and we all want to do our bit to help.
“During our training, we have all shadowed many local NHS staff, so it will be great to get stuck in and do our bit to help them.”