Medical students graduate early from Sheffield to assist NHS coronavirus effort

  • Nearly 250 University of Sheffield final year medical students have graduated early as junior doctors to be able to work for the NHS during the coronavirus pandemic
  • The medical students were keen to graduate earlier than usual to provide valuable support to the NHS as qualified clinicians
  • They join student nurses and allied health professionals on placement from the University who have already volunteered to dedicate more time to working on the frontline as NHS employees at this time

Pete McKee's Frontline Warrior print with the caption Sheffield's new doctors, class of 2020

Students from the class of 2020 at the University of Sheffield’s Medical School have graduated as junior doctors months earlier than scheduled so they can join the NHS response to the coronavirus pandemic.

The graduating students took part in an online graduation ceremony today (28 April 2020) where the University of Sheffield’s President and Vice-Chancellor, Professor Koen Lamberts, congratulated them on their remarkable achievements and thanked them for their courage, commitment and compassion in stepping up to support the NHS and the country in its hour of need.

Professor Lamberts and the Dean of Medical Education, Professor Deborah Murdoch-Eaton, witnessed the cohort take a virtual hippocratic oath as they start their careers as new junior doctors.

Professor Murdoch-Eaton praised the graduates for epitomising the best of what being a Sheffield medical student is about: “They are collaborative, hard working and caring professionals, grounded by the principles of serving their community, and we are so fantastically proud of them at this time.”

A photograph of medical graduate Dr Philip MitchellPhilip Mitchell, 27, originally from Hampshire, is the outgoing President of the University’s Medical Society and one of the final year medical students who graduated early today.

He said: “It is still sinking in that we graduated early. It’s gone so quickly, going from finishing our final placement, to then be told we would be qualified as a junior doctor. We know we're ready - we’ve been supported to do this.

“I never envisaged I would graduate into a crisis such as this, but we’re in a privileged position to make a positive impact and to be able to help patients. We would all rather there was no pandemic at all, however any situation that pushes you beyond your comfort zone will grow your ability and confidence, and ultimately will equip us well going forward in our careers.”

The Director of Assessment for Sheffield Medical School, Dr Dyfrig Hughes, will work with some of the graduates at Barnsley Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, where he works as an A&E Consultant.

He said: “To have a cohort of junior doctors able to boost our numbers, especially in this time of need, will help us ease the pressure on frontline healthcare staff and release more experienced staff to focus on caring for the most unwell patients at this time.

“The students were really keen to get going and it’s heartening for staff to see how their commitment to caring really shows. They'll be made to feel very welcome and supported as we all pull together during this unprecedented situation.”

The junior doctors are being joined by a cohort of students from the University’s Health Sciences School, who answered a call from Health Education England to dedicate more of their clinical placement time to work as NHS employees during the pandemic.

Professor Tracey Moore, Dean of the Health Sciences School at the University of Sheffield said: “I am so proud of those of our nursing students, trainee nursing associates and students from our allied health professional courses who were able to volunteer to support our NHS.

“Having more frontline staff such as nurses and doctors provides vital capacity for the NHS to maintain essential and compassionate care for all patients, at a time when more patients are being cared for. Their skills and hard work are of great value to the NHS.”

Dr David Hughes, Medical Director, Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust said: “We are looking forward to having the new junior doctors working alongside us during this unprecedented time, and as well as congratulating them on their graduation, I would like to thank all the medical, nursing and allied health professional students for their support and dedication to helping us provide the care our patients need.”

Tim Chico, Professor of Cardiovascular Medicine at the University’s Department of Infection, Immunity and Cardiovascular Disease, is now working full time in his post as a Consultant Cardiologist at Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, providing extra support to the NHS during this demanding time.

He said: “The amount of support shown for the NHS around the UK will be a huge boost to our new doctors and nursing staff starting their careers. We all know what we are doing is greatly appreciated right now.

“The first few weeks on the wards is a daunting but rewarding period for any doctor, especially in a crisis such as this, but we will learn together, share the load and find ways to de-stress after difficult periods. We are very glad to welcome these essential colleagues into the NHS.”

A photograph of medical graduate Dr Annie EvansAnnie Evans, 24, from York, is a final year medical student also graduating early today. As well as looking forward to having the opportunity to gain more experience than she would have done otherwise as a graduating junior doctor, Annie hopes she can help her new colleagues maintain their wellbeing and resilience during the pandemic; inviting them to join an organisation she set up while studying.

She said: “I started NHSycle last year for the medical students to come together for indoor cycling practice. It's a great wellbeing boost, and gives the students the chance to make friends and workout at a level comfortable for them.

“Of course, due to the current social distancing measures, we can't cycle together right now - but exercise is really important to improve wellbeing, decrease stress, and increase motivation. This can help people maintain their resilience and overcome challenges.

“We graduated into a situation that brings more demands and pressure, which is daunting, but so many doctors have come out to thank us and offer their support to help us through starting out that I hope I can give something back and bring staff together.”

For the ceremony, Annie recorded a piano recital of I Giorni by Ludovico Einaudi.

Famous Sheffield figures also pitched in to help the student celebrate this momentous occasion. Home-grown artist Pete McKee adapted his Frontline Warrior print to congratulate ‘Sheffield’s new doctors, Class of 2020’ and Sheffield alumnus and Reverend and the Makers frontman Jon McClure sent a special video message and acoustic performance for the graduates.

Watch the virtual graduation ceremony

Watch the students' Hippocratic Oath videos

Additional information

The University of Sheffield
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For further information please contact:

Rebecca Ferguson
Media Relations Officer
The University of Sheffield
0114 222 9859