Jane Wilkinson

Many of us tell our children not to wish their lives away in their haste to get on with the next phase.  However, I suspect we are all longing to get to the point when the restrictions of lockdown will be lifted so we can enjoy meeting our family, friends and colleagues face to face, and our social life can amount to more than the permitted daily exercise and a trip to the supermarket.

Combined with our longing for social interaction is a fear of another wave and a possible return to further restrictions in the future. This has made me reflect on the influenza pandemic of 1918, which followed the carnage of the First World War. Relatively little has been written about this pandemic. It isn’t the stuff of literature, is barely taught in schools and yet its impact worldwide was devastating. Were people desperate to look to a brighter future and put the tragedy of the pandemic behind them?  We know that we are going to need to accommodate COVID-19 in our lives for a very long time, but we all hope that it will eventually have the same status in our lives as influenza – serious, potentially fatal but manageable in the background without significant disruption to our daily lives.

There is a palpable sense of fatigue amongst staff and students – the adrenaline rush of the first wave carried us so far, but the opening up in the summer followed by the devastation of the second wave and the lockdown over the winter months has been really gruelling for everyone. I think most of us feel that we are running on an empty tank. However, I have been so impressed by the dogged determination of staff and students to keep the show on the road. I do not think I have ever received so many commendations for students out on placement. The fact that staff have taken the trouble to write and tell us about our incredible students going above and beyond to support the vaccination programme, amongst other things, is extraordinary.

Similarly, I am impressed by the total dedication of the Education Team who are managing to keep the students on track whilst planning the next academic year with a mix of optimism and realism. Many of us attended the Clinical Centres Forum and were blown away by the innovative approaches to clinical placement teaching, even enjoying a live streaming of a liver resection by Arjun Takhar! Technology enhanced learning will be central to how we deliver medical education going forwards. We are fortunate to have Scott Border as the lead of our Technology Enhanced Learning Strategy group to drive this forward. Equally impressive was the student-led session on Developing Cultural Competence. With such incredible students, the future of the medical profession is surely in safe hands.

I hope that everyone has managed to have some time off over Easter to recharge the batteries. Let’s remain hopeful that better times are on the horizon.

“Moving forward” by Jane Wilkinson, Associate Dean (Education), Faculty of Medicine

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