Last Updated: 29th June 2020

STP Trainees helping in the fight against COVID-19

During the coronavirus pandemic, many STP and HSST trainees/graduates have been working hard to help fight COVID-19. Two STP trainees, who were both working in a Virology department at the outbreak of the virus, gave us a snapshot of what life has been like during this global pandemic. The School would like to thank both Ben and Amy for supplying us with this information.

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Ben Johns, Trainee Clinical Scientist, Public Health Wales

As a Trainee Clinical Scientist for Public Health Wales I am currently working at the Wales Specialist Virology Centre (WSVC) in the University Hospital of Wales. WSVC tests samples for SARS-CoV-2 (the causative agent of COVID-19) from right across Wales. Over the past few weeks I have seen the importance of good team work and leadership. We have had to remain dynamic in the use of a range of nucleic acid extraction and PCR platforms  to ensure that we can continue to meet the growing demand for testing across the country. Although our training has had to take a back-seat for a few weeks, it is important to recognise that whilst the portfolio will develop our scientific skills for ‘tomorrow’, the Service requires those skills which we already have from our previous academic and work-based training in order to deliver the best possible service to our communities ‘today’.

I work within a team of around 30 Biomedical Scientists, Medical Laboratory Assistants, Clinical Scientists (incl. Consultant grade) and Consultant virologists (physicians). Together, we receive samples from across the country – both inpatients and community testing clinics. First, we transfer the dry swabs into lysis buffer before extracting on one of the many platforms available for our use. Once this is done, molecular testing is used to ascertain whether or not the virus can be detected on the swab by interpretation of the amplification charts. We also detect RNase P as a marker of human cellular material (to ensure that the swab has been taken properly and to avoid false negative results).

I am proud to be able to support the delivery of this service and it’s great to see Wales leading the way!

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Amy State, STP Trainee

As a final year STP student I obviously expected that my career would change over the next few months or years, however I don’t think anyone could have imagined just how much things could/would change since those first reports from China of a novel Coronavirus back in December 2019.

To prepare for my future role as a clinical scientist and to gain some clinical experience before the OSFAs I started working closely with the virology medic team in November 2019, ringing out positive Flu results to wards and giving them infection prevention and control advice to avoid/manage outbreaks.  Fast forward to early March 2020 and I now find myself in the thick of all things COVID-19.  I am working as a registered clinical scientist after being put on the HCPC temporary register which involves me giving clinical advice, telephoning positive results to the wards and even providing on call virology services to provide some resilience to the virology service in Sheffield.  Some of my tasks have involved developing algorithms for dealing with positive COVID patients that have been disseminated to clinical areas around the Trust, and I have also been helping to provide a testing and resulting service for Trust, and the wider healthcare community, Staff screening programme.

On top of all this I am a mum to my 6 year old son, and to ensure my family’s safety, my parents have moved into our house to provide childcare to enable me and my husband to continue to work.  Some days are mentally and emotionally tough, as I can be sat at my desk for hours authorising results and ringing fellow healthcare professionals giving them the news that they have tested positive, and providing them reassurance where possible.  COVID-19 has taught me a lot about myself and the clinical scientist that I aim to be.  The kindness shown by everyone in these unprecedented times throughout my Trust, reminds me of why I came into healthcare and together we can get through this.