Bored of hearing lots of negative things about young people and not much else? We hear ya.
Young people are doing A LOT more than they are being given credit for during this pandemic. And we’ve got the receipts to show it. As part of our new series “Young and Fighting Coronavirus” we’ve spoken to three young healthcare workers about what it’s like as a young person on the frontline.
Last week, we spoke to Rahul to find out what it’s like as a young doctor and how Coronavirus has impacted him, and why society needs to change.
Hi Rahul! Tell us a bit more about your role?
I’m an “interim foundation year one doctor” (not really a title that rolls off the tongue!) Basically that means I was still a medical student until two or three months ago. I was keen to help and felt quite strongly that I should be doing my bit in what might be one of the worst points in our lifetimes. I got an email telling me I could start working early on a flexible contract. It’s a bit lighter than a junior doctor’s contract but with similar responsibilities. My mum was initially worried but understood that it was necessary.
I also want to say, as a doctor, that I think as a society we are weirdly disproportionate in how we treat doctors versus nurses. I think the nursing degree is exploitative, as they are working as part of their degree but they’re not paid; and they spend almost all of their 12 hours shifts on their feet!
What made you want to get into medicine?
It sounds cliche but I wanted to help people. I was always decent at science and it was the only thing I thought I was good at (nurses are good at science too by the way). I am also lucky to have a few relatives who are doctors so I had honest chats with them to learn more about what it entails.
How have things changed for you since Covid-19?
Although I’ve only just started working, I have been on wards through most of my medical degree. I’ve noticed staff are a lot more exhausted and people are frustrated at some of the inefficiencies. My hospital has tried to implement silly policies created by managers who haven’t worked on wards, or at least not recently. For example, we were told we were not going to be using the national guidelines of the resuscitation council, and following Public Health England’s guidance instead, which meant we were not as protected against Covid as we should have been. Thankfully there was an uproar from staff and the guidelines have been adjusted.
Wearing PPE all day in red wards (wards where patients who have Covid-19 are treated) is mentally exhausting- although very necessary. The masks are not very comfortable and slip off your nose sometimes but it’s better than nothing. I think Covid has shown that this government is reluctant to take radical steps and that PPE should be nationally produced, not made by companies who are making a profit.
Coronavirus is not just a medical issue. It is symptomatic of something much worse. When this is over, a lot of people are going to suffer. It doesn’t matter if I’m treating people and helping them to get better, only for them to go back to a life where they barely have enough to get by. Medical science doesn’t exist in a vacuum. Science isn’t immune to politics.
This situation has made it very clear that Boris Johnson and Donald Trump are intelligently ruthless. They are in the pockets of big business and they are the ones controlling when people go back to work. If people are sent back to work too early, there’ll be more patients on hospital wards as a result. Even just mildly messing this up something can have a huge impact- we’re looking at the biggest recession on record.
Healthcare staff like yourself are on the front line and therefore more vulnerable to getting ill. How does this make you feel?
I was always under the impression that I was less likely to be affected as someone young, and most people i’ve seen are middle aged or older and people with respiratory problems. There are nurses and doctors with asthma and for them it’s certainly more of a risk. The only thing that’s scared me a bit is seeing BME (black and minority ethnic) doctors and nurses dying at a faster rate. They are more represented in the NHS more widely, but also as cleaners and porters as well.
I think as a young person I’m not as worried, and staff are quite open about when they’ve had it and that they’ve recovered. But we don’t know what the long-term impacts of Covid-19 are. It’s a nasty virus that can impact more than just lungs; in some instances it can cause inflammatory conditions of the heart and internal bleeding.
There’s been a lot of negative coverage about young people, making it look like young people weren’t taking this situation seriously. How did that make you feel, knowing what you do as a young person?
This whole idea that younger people are more foolish is inaccurate; and these claims aren’t random either. It comes out of a vested interest that the ruling class continue the status quo. I think there’s a meaning behind it. I have seen some people not respecting the rules, but I think it’s pretty minimal and the occasional group of friends meeting isn’t as bad as sending loads of people back to work to their deaths like this government seems prepared to do.
Young people have a lot going against them, but we also have a lot that works in our favour. Older people have seen the collapse of so many movements, whereas we still have optimism and energy. There’s a reason why the average age of movements it’s mostly young people. We’re optimistic and have a fresh perspective on things. We have a lot more to give than take. We tend to be less disabled by chronic conditions, we don’t tend to have families to look after, work 9-5s or have mortgages. It’s our responsibility to take a leadership role and link up with others, refine our strategies and take a good look at society and have a much more sober view of things.
What are you hopeful for once all this is over?
I’m not hopeful that the NHS will improve, it’s not top of this government’s agenda. Everyone loves the NHS but at the same time, the bar for funding it properly is so low. It’s a double-edged sword.
This pandemic has shown that we’re more willing to work in communities and willing to sacrifice our safety for others. I’m not saying I’m some sort of hero at all, but like thousands of others I felt it was important to use the resources and skills I’ve learned to help others. This increasing kindness comes with the recognition of the “unkindness” in society and more solidarity amongst different groups, particularly oppressed ones. I think people are becoming more open to a radical shift in political conversation and that we mustn’t just go back to “normal”.
I’m hopeful there will be a tangible movement and real change- young people particularly are waking up to this. I think we’ll also see a huge economic downturn too and a lot of people will suffer- but I hope this will radicalise them and help them envision a better society.
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