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Medical students on nursing shifts apologise for ‘menial’ tasks complaint



Medical students have apologised after complaining about carrying out ‘menial tasks’ while covering nursing and healthcare assistant shifts during the Covid-19 pandemic.

A letter from the Imperial College school of medicine student union published on Monday, which called for an end to medical student redeployment, was accused on Twitter of dismissing the vital work of nurses and healthcare assistants (HCAs).

In an apology posted to the social media platform yesterday, the union stressed that it does not ‘believe that medical students are in any way superior to nurses, nursing students, HCAs, or any other members of staff in the NHS’.

It continued: ‘Working as an HCA or in nursing roles is invaluable and humbling work and caring for the unwell is an honour and a privilege. We’re aware of longstanding issues of arrogance in medicine, and we fully apologise for contributing to that.’

The letter to the medical school head Professor Amir Sam, now deleted, called for an end to the unpaid compulsory redeployment of final year medical students to Imperial College Healthcare Trust.

It warned that medical students were ‘at real risk of facing burnout’ and were carrying out ‘menial tasks’ not helpful to their learning.

It said: ‘Just a few weeks away from their exams, our final year students now find themselves being pulled away from their clinical placements and faced with obligatory redeployment onto ITU to cover nursing and HCA shifts, working alongside paid staff for free while doing menial tasks.’

The ‘menial’ duties listed in the letter expected of redeployed medical students included making refreshments, reception-type duties and topping up gel, soap and towels.

Doctors, medical students and nurses alike took to Twitter to correct the notion that the work of nurses and healthcare assistants in ITU was ‘menial’.

But the union’s apology has been well received.