What it's like to study health care during a pandemic

UEA medical student Asha Notarianni.
Byline: Sonya Duncan

UEA medical student Asha Notarianni. Byline: Sonya Duncan - Credit: Sonya Duncan

We have all had our fair share of obstacles to battle with over the past year due to the pandemic. We were interested to see how our healthcare students coped with the very sudden change that the Covid-19 pandemic has presented us with.  

UEA medical student Asha Notarianni.
Byline: Sonya Duncan

UEA medical student Asha Notarianni. Byline: Sonya Duncan - Credit: Sonya Duncan


Asha Notarianni, 22, from Hemsby, is a medical student studying at UEA. 

“I always wanted to be a doctor because I really like the prospect of working as part of a team to encourage healthy lifestyles and help people who are unwell to feel better.” 


UEA medical student Asha Notarianni.
Byline: Sonya Duncan

UEA medical student Asha Notarianni. Byline: Sonya Duncan - Credit: Sonya Duncan

"The pandemic caused me to put a lot of pressure on myself. It’s a competency-based job, if I am not safe, that isn’t fair. I couldn't neglect my learning, so I had to go above and beyond what I did previous years and to do it a lot faster.” 

UEA medical student Asha Notarianni.
Byline: Sonya Duncan

UEA medical student Asha Notarianni. Byline: Sonya Duncan - Credit: Sonya Duncan

“Despite the circumstances the medical school adapted well and stepped up as quickly as they could. They worked hard to ensure we were still competent in the skills we needed. It was a little bit easier this year because they had the summer to prepare for further online learning.” 


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“Online learning has been beneficial because it means we had access to the lectures beforehand and meant we could revisit them if we felt we needed to, it allowed everyone to work at their own pace.” 

Dean of the School of Health Sciences, Professor Sally Hardy said: "Our students were initially withdrawn from placements, whilst we gained knowledge and understanding of the risks associated with this new SARS virus. The loss to the NHS of our students was hard felt, and the offer to redeploy students came quickly with 90pc` of our students re-entering the clinical environment to support our NHS"


Professor Sally Hardy, Dean School of Health Sciences, UEA

Professor Sally Hardy, Dean School of Health Sciences, UEA - Credit: Prof Sally Hardy


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Asha talked a lot about the support for students: “The medical school do their best to support us, ensuring we have access to the learning and examinations online, whilst following all the guidance set out by the government."

UEA medical student Asha Notarianni.
Byline: Sonya Duncan

UEA medical student Asha Notarianni. Byline: Sonya Duncan - Credit: Sonya Duncan

"The medical school has implemented a wellbeing bulletin, it’s a monthly bulletin all about the things they are doing to support us with our mental health and wellbeing. It’s a small thing that they’ve done which has probably helped people in ways they don’t realise.” 

UEA medical student Asha Notarianni.
Byline: Sonya Duncan

UEA medical student Asha Notarianni. Byline: Sonya Duncan - Credit: Sonya Duncan


The associate dean of teaching, learning and quality for the faculty of medicine and health sciences, Dr Jane Blowers, spoke very passionately about how hard the students have worked to continue to achieve.

“The students have been flexible, resilient, adaptable, determined and committed to achieving their goals. They've developed skills that may not have been so evident had the pandemic not occurred.” 

The Associate Dean of teaching, learning and quality for the faculty of medicine and health sciences. Dr Jane Blowers

The Associate Dean of teaching, learning and quality for the faculty of medicine and health sciences. Dr Jane Blowers shares her thoughts on student learning during the pandemic. - Credit: Dr Jane Blowers


“Some students have had paid placements where they’ve been supporting the NHS. Peer support has been really good, and the academic community has remained vibrant. “ 

Asha said: “My placement hasn’t been affected; we were still active in our placements but have had extra clinical teaching. The most impacted was the theory based as our lecturers are practising clinicians, so they’ve been needed to tackle the ongoing pandemic.” 

UEA medical student Asha Notarianni.
Byline: Sonya Duncan

UEA medical student Asha Notarianni. Byline: Sonya Duncan - Credit: Sonya Duncan

How do we know the students going into our healthcare systems are being properly assessed?

“We already had online assessments and assessments in practice have continued. We have to keep our public protection really high, so they’ve been robustly assessed. We have just used some different modes. We will never compromise the safety and quality of what we do,” said Dr Blowers. 

UEA medical student Asha Notarianni.
Byline: Sonya Duncan

UEA medical student Asha Notarianni. Byline: Sonya Duncan - Credit: Sonya Duncan



UEA medical student Asha Notarianni.
Byline: Sonya Duncan

UEA medical student Asha Notarianni. Byline: Sonya Duncan - Credit: Sonya Duncan

Professor Hardy said: "I am always in awe of the students ability to adapt and overcome hardships, they are truly wonderful and should you meet them in their placements, be heartened and thank them for those sacrifices they make. We have a future workforce that is built on some great foundations as this next generation of professionals enters the workforce."

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