RCSI students join frontline effort in Beaumont and Connolly hospitals

Medical students trained in prone positioning of seriously ill Covid-19 patients

RCSI students volunteering in Beaumont ICU during Covid-19 pandemic. From left: Patrick Kennelly, Sarah Kelly, Adam Lynch, Aliya Hiridjee, Brian Fox and Evelyn Flynn. Photograph: Sarah Kelly

RCSI students volunteering in Beaumont ICU during Covid-19 pandemic. From left: Patrick Kennelly, Sarah Kelly, Adam Lynch, Aliya Hiridjee, Brian Fox and Evelyn Flynn. Photograph: Sarah Kelly

 

More than two dozen medical students have been drafted in to work alongside frontline healthcare workers in Beaumont and Connolly hospitals as the numbers of cases of Covid-19 continues to rise in Ireland.

Students from RCSI University of Medicine and Health Sciences have been trained in prone positioning - turning intubated patients to lie on their front to make breathing overnight easier – with 26 young people working in the ICUs of the two hospitals in recent weeks.

Last week, Beaumont hospital had the largest number of Covid-19 cases followed by St James’ and the Mater hospitals. Dublin has the highest number of coronavirus cases in the State with 5,006 confirmed cases in the capital as of midnight on Saturday, April 11th.

There are now 10,647 known coronavirus cases in the State, and 365 people have died from the virus.

Gordon Treacy, a second year graduate medicine student, was posted to Connolly hospital as a team lead after responding to a callout from RCSI’s head of medicine for volunteers. “It wasn’t an easy decision to volunteer because you’re putting yourself at an increased risk but there was no doubt in my mind that it was the right thing to do.”

Following induction training, Mr Treacy started working each morning in the Connolly hospital intensive care unit, helping to turn Covid-19 patients who had spent the night sleeping on their front. “The challenge is the patient is intubated and unconscious so it requires six people, three on either side, to turn the them. You also need a nurse and an anaesthetist with you, it’s a huge team effort. These patients are critically unwell, they can be unstable, and everything has to be done following strict instructions.”

Mr Treacy spends the afternoon studying for exams and returns with the team at 4pm to help turn the patients once again. “It’s definitely difficult seeing people in that condition and it really shows how tragic the situation is.

Photograph: Gordon Treacy, RCSI student volunteering at Connolly Hospital
Photograph: Gordon Treacy, RCSI student volunteering at Connolly Hospital

“It’s tough but it’s just a fraction of what others are going through in the face of this all. We can see the tenacity and amazing work of the healthcare workers and how they’re adapting to a situation that’s changing every day.”

Sarah Kelly, a third year undergraduate medical student from Cavan, is leading the student prone positioning team at Beaumont hospital. The 22-year-old found the work daunting at first but has grown accustomed to the tasks and ICU environment.

“The first few times we used the PPE it was quite nerve-wracking. I wanted to make sure I put it all on in the right order and it gets very hot wearing it. But you get used to it.

“It’s quite inspiring to be working there to be honest, the staff are sacrificing so much and doing much more overtime than usual,” Ms Kelly told The Irish Times, adding that her sister works as a nurse in Beaumont. “I think the constant innovative ways doctors deal with situations is very impressive.

“Even though we’re volunteering and doing our part it’s nothing in comparison to what the rest of the healthcare workers are doing.”

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