My time volunteering at South Warwickshire Foundation Trust
17 September 2020
From the 3rd of April until the 24th of August I had volunteered in the R&D department at South Warwickshire Foundation Trust (SWFT) as a researcher. I had been asked by the head of the department a week before the lockdown was announced and she had known about my keen interest in being part of a clinical research team. During my time there, I showed my mettle and ended up managing the Urgent Public Health COVID-19 ISARIC Study, part of a nationwide effort to record epidemiological data for COVID to help in our understanding of the disease. I was able to fully consolidate our data base along with accurately capture identifiable information needed as part of the study for every patient who had been either a suspected or a positive case of COVID at SWFT.
I was quite enthused to be part of the team. I had done a Student Selected Component (SSC) on Clinical Research and had done my training on Good Clinical Practice (GCP), informed consent along with watching how individuals recruit patients into a study. However, this time I was not just merely a student. I was not just getting a behind the scenes look as to how a fully fleshed out team works in a clinical research setting, but I would also grow to become an integral member. I was initially anxious about how my interactions with the team would be, not merely with the anxiety of starting out but also with COVID; this included issues of distancing but also having my sister staying with me and worrying about her own safety and the safety of my colleagues. With adequate distancing measures, I immediately immersed myself into the team and started to learn what they were working on which was the ISARIC study. It involved a lot of data collection which I thought was going to be quite overwhelming because I felt that my limited time in the clinical setting (a week), while supported by my theoretical experience from my previous 2 years of medical school, would not prove as extensive and would need to be supplemented, actually turned out to be more than adequate.
As I journeyed through my time with the team, I was able to see the evolution of COVID in terms of patient demographics, how they presented, investigations and imaging but also the stories of a patient waking up to their partner passed away beside them or how a very elderly patient with multiple co-morbidities recovered from the disease. The virus had defied my understanding of how viruses work, especially since the virus was closely related to the coronavirus strain which causes the common cold. However, this was not my only impactful experience. I was able to appreciate a unique look into a patient’s complete journey; from when they walk into the A&E to their incipient outcome, it was all laid out in front of me in black and white which was thoroughly exciting but also daunting. It posed to me the realisation that this would be my task in a few years…to see the journey of my patients in my care in its holistic form and not in the isolated interactions I would have. These are individuals with a past but importantly a future with friends and family which intersect to create the fully fleshed out individual who will be in front of me at any time and it was truly humbling.
On the conclusion of my time with the team, I was exhausted from the extensive work and time I had put in while simultaneously running other projects and catching up with online learning, which when studying medicine, one can appreciate is not an easy task. However, I was incredibly happy to have played a little part in the story of COVID in 2020 and it has provided me with lots of insight and positivity in a dark time.