Students on the COVID-19 frontline – Martha’s story

patient on oxygen

Students from the University of Birmingham Medical School have been supporting our NHS Birmingham Health Partners members on the wards, in family liaison, and in research and development. Here, medical student Martha Lenaghan shares her experience as a founding member of the Family Liaison team at University Hospitals Birmingham.

Martha LenaghanFor the last few weeks, I’ve been part of the Family Liaison Team which I was involved in setting up and leading – though it wasn’t just me, of course. I couldn’t even begin to thank everyone involved: Prof Hutton, Dr Cramb, Dr Turfrey, Dr Abeysinghe, Emily Taylor, all of my student colleagues and the ITU staff for starters. Thank you.

I was aware we were going to have to learn very quickly how to communicate about ITU and COVID to relatives. What I didn’t predict is that I would spend hours doing this in Romanian, that I would build up such good relationships with the families that I spoke to daily or the crushing heartbreak I would feel when the decision had to be made to withdraw treatment.

I would make that one final call to tell them how sorry I was and that I’d be thinking of them. The families would say how thankful they were for having us there throughout this horrendous time and how it had made it the tiniest bit easier. To me that made the whole job worth it. I could go and buy a coffee, take five, and continue. If I looked like I was having a particularly bad day sometimes the coffee shop staff would slip me a free coffee and these small acts of kindness helped greatly. Especially when I spent my 25th birthday at QE on the phones but knew there was chocolate cake in the background.

I have no doubt the leadership, resilience, communication and organisational skills this job has taught me will make me a better doctor.

I have no doubt the leadership, resilience, communication and organisational skills this job has taught me will make me a better doctor. Skills that can’t be gained just from a textbook. It has also allowed me to appreciate the strength and support of my NHS colleagues and this whole experience has reaffirmed that there is more kindness in the world than not. It makes me very proud to work for the NHS. 

Find out about studying at Birmingham Medical School