Graduating to the frontline-790

Graduating to the frontline: How one medicine scholar has been fast-tracked to the fight against Covid-19

It’s fair to say most of us would have taken a little bit of a breather upon graduation, but for the Medicine and Nursing Class of 2020 it has been an experience unlike any other.

Abbey Bracken (Medicine, 2020), a Nottingham Potential scholarship recipient, was one of 6,000 medical students across the UK fast-tracked into service last summer to help tackle the Covid-19 outbreak. She has spent the first few months of her medical career working at Royal Liverpool Hospital amid a life-changing pandemic. 

“Nottingham is somewhere that will always be close to my heart. I was in Rutland Hall in my first year and I always loved sitting out on the Downs – revising for summer exams, sledging, listening to music – we did everything there.Even in my fifth year on campus, I’d be walking over the link bridge between the university and Queens Medical Centre and I’d see the sign and think to myself “Oh my word, I can’t believe I actually got into Medical School.” It’s the same now when I go into work and think “I can’t believe this is actually my job.” I feel so lucky to have been given this opportunity and I want to make the most of it. 

I’m from Burnley originally. The school I went to was OK but it wasn’t particularly high performing. I was the first one in my family to go to university and move away from the area. When I got to university, I really had to come out of my shell. I’ve met so many wonderful people from across the world. Even though it’s a big campus, it’s such a nice tight-knit community at Nottingham and we really grew together as students. I did find it very difficult at times, especially compared to my friends who did non-medical courses – there was a big difference in the amount of time spent in university and the number of hours I had to make up. Trying to hold a part-time job as well was challenging, so my scholarship came in really handy as it helped to take the edge off the pressure.


I went on placement at the end of my paediatric rotation at Nottingham Children’s Hospital and just loved it. The enthusiasm of the staff was completely infectious. Trying to get a history from a four year-old who is wheeling themselves on a tractor up and down the admissions unit is great fun! It’s not for everyone but it is for me.The 8th of March 2020 was the first day of my elective on paediatric intensive care at Great Ormond Street Hospital in London. I’d saved up my scholarship money for a couple of years to help cover the tuition fees there.

I arrived for 8am, got my ID badge and went on some ward rounds, but by 3pm someone came in and said: “We’ve got a case, everybody get out!” I returned to Nottingham and we were in the first national lockdown a week later!

Then one day soon after, we heard Matt Hancock on the news saying “We’re graduating 6,000 medical students next week so they can all come and start work.” This was the first we’d heard of it and I think the first the university had heard of it as well! We graduated in April over Zoom, on BBC One’s The One Show, which was really, really special. I’m so grateful that they put that on as it meant all my family still got to see my graduation!

My interim job was at a hospital on the Wirral called Arrowe Park – an infectious diseases ward that was turned into acute Covid-19 ward. I had a brilliant team of consultants, junior doctors and nurses who really took me under their wing. But it was bizarre being there trying to help treat an illness that I had no idea about. We didn’t learn about Covid-19 in Medical School so I felt a bit out of my depth for a while. I had to get used to looking after dying patients very quickly. Pre-pandemic, we would always try to have difficult discussions face to face with people, but suddenly we were having to do so over the phone. Unfortunately it’s now something that I am getting used to. Role-playing while at university was one thing but it’s very different when it’s real life.

I do feel that Nottingham prepared me for work brilliantly. The educators and clinicians who worked in the Medical School were just great. They are so passionate about what they do – it’s one of the nice things about somewhere like Nottingham, where it is so research focused. I never felt like I couldn’t ask for help and I was able to throw myself into everything.

When you get to spend your time with such inspirational and supportive people, it spurs you on to work hard and to find out where your enthusiasm and passion lies as well.” 


Read more from Ambition issue 2:

The Social Impact Game: Everyone's a winner
Find out how student Polly is using the Social Impact Game to help others and develop her skills.

Waste not, want Notts
How student project Foodprint has been helping the local community during the pandemic.

New Covid-19 vaccine in development
A new vaccine is in the works which potentially has greater chances of success against a mutating virus.

How your support has helped students shine through the pandemic
We asked two students to tell us how they have dealt with the challenges created by Covid-19.

New home for University Radio Nottingham thanks to your donations
University Radio Nottingham has moved out of its former home in the basement to a shiny new studio in the Portland Building. 

From grassroots to greatness
How your support for our student project fund Cascade is helping make sport accessible to all.



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Ambition issue two is also available as a PDF.

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