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UCC Staff and Students join the frontline in the battle against Covid-19

Staff and students of UCC have been recently celebrated in the media for their efforts, analysis and research in the battle against Covid-19. With Level 5 restrictions likely to remain in place until after Easter according to Government sources, the vaccine roll-out has been the focus of the national conversation. UCC staff and students have been proactive in their response to the Covid-19 pandemic, and have dominated headlines in recent weeks.

A UCC lecturer, Dr. Angela Flynn, attracted widespread praise on social media in recent weeks, having re-joined the frontline in the battle against the spread of Covid-19. Dr. Flynn is a former ICU nurse and a lecturer in UCC’s School of Nursing and Midwifery. Dr. Flynn took the initiative to re-join the staff in Cork University Hospital (CUH), recognising that her nursing colleagues were “exhausted” and that she “felt the need to go and help out.” Dr. Flynn is balancing her UCC workload with “aiming to do one or two shifts per week.”

Several student nurses have spoken to University Express about their experience of balancing online learning and the Covid-19 pandemic. As part of their degree course, first, second and third-year nurses are obligated to do unpaid clinical placements in healthcare settings. Before UCC returned for semester two, the Department of Health announced that the clinical placements were being suspended in order for staff who supervise the placements to focus on frontline duties.

During the first wave of Covid-19, student nurses were converted to Healthcare Assistants (HCA) and paid as such. The majority of the students who spoke with University Express, were open to the possibility of completing this type of work again. The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation also support this position.

Amy Brennan is a final year medicine student at UCC, who volunteered alongside the doctors, nurses and healthcare staff at CUH, in the emergency department for most of last year. Ms. Brennan, aged 22 from Ballincollig, felt obligated ‘to do her bit’ in the battle against Covid-19. Ms. Brennan was at the frontline when the full force of the pandemic hit, with CUH under immense strain. “People were absolutely terrified when they arrived at the door. It is a truly terrifying thing to see people presenting with respiratory distress, but what I found much more frightening was the fact that people were coming in who were previously healthy and well” she said. For her efforts and the personal sacrifices she made, Ms. Brennan has been awarded a Quercus Scholarship from UCC in recognition of her achievements. She will graduate from her medical studies at the end of this academic year, and plans to go straight back into the fight to protect public health.

A senior lecturer in Biochemistry at UCC, Dr Anne Moore, warned that the vaccine rollout will not see the way we live “change overnight or enable the country to open up immediately.” Dr. Moore gave this warning in light of medical research that warned of the transmissibility of Covid-19. “The vaccines that are licensed for use at the moment have been designed to protect against disease, and we don’t know at this stage if they protect against transmission, they may or they may not,” said Dr. Moore.

The Translational Medicine Society of UCC held its first virtual conference on new health developments recently. The conference aimed to encourage interaction with clinicians, scientists, academia, industry, government, funding, regulatory agencies, investors and policymakers. Chairperson of the Translational Medicine Society at UCC, Maedbh Heaney opened the conference, which included notable speakers, such as Dr. Dan Barouch from Harvard Medical School and Professor Luke O’Neill of Trinity College Dublin.