NAT 200411 Volunteers from GMU Ajman-1586592284558
Students in the picture: Sajadhossein Bazrafshani (5th year MBBS), Mohammed Rayan (4th year MBBS) Alyssa (4th year MBBS), Priya Rani (4th year MBBS) Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: Responding to the call of duty in times of the COVID-19 pandemic, at least 26 students belonging to 12 different nationalities have signed up as volunteers at different hospitals and are clocking an eight hour duty that will continue most likely until the end of June or beyond.

The students, in the final and penultimate year of medicine, nursing and allied health services at the Gulf Medical University GMU), Ajman have begun working in hospitals across the UAE. The students belong the College of Medicine, College of Health Sciences, College of Nursing in various programmes at GMU. While a majority of students reported for work at the Thumbay Hospital, Ajman, many have signed up at a digital platform to work in several hospitals belonging to the Ministry of Health.

Gulf News spoke to six of these students, all of who are in the age group of 22-26, to understand what drove them to volunteer for a cause that could expose them to a dangerous contagion.

Being true to the Hippocratic Oath

Salwa Ali

Salwa Ali, a young Emirati national, in the final year Bio Medical student at GMU said : “I feel it is a duty towards my country which needs me at this hour of crisis. My parents were very supportive and I registered on the digital platform and will be assigned a job at the hospital soon.”

Sajadhossein Bazrafshani

Sajadhossein Bazrafshani, a final year medical at GMU was most enthusiastic about volunteering. “At the vanguard of a battle there is risk and there is ecstasy. When we sign up for this profession, we take the Hippocratic Oath of serving mankind. So it was only natural for me to respond to this call of duty when I heard my college was initiating the programme, I signed up,” said Bazrafshani, a UK national who plans to be a surgeon someday.

The students were trained initially in all hygiene protocols and use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) before they were absorbed into the hospital routine so that they were able to take all precautions against any transmission or exposure to COVID 19.

At Thumbay Hospital, the students are working under the supervision of Dr Fozi Abozeid Dakilah, the Medical Director. Every morning, armed with Personal Protection Equipment (PPE), the volunteers report to work, lending a helping hand to a beleaguered medical team. Alyssa Cameron, a South African expatriate and Palwasha Javed, a fourth year medical student and Pakistani National said they tried to understand the rigours of the routine andd fit into the work flow.

Alyssa Cameron

“It was amazing to get so much handson experience in an actual situation. The other day, I was able to help a new mother who had undergone a C-section feed her child. The nurses demonstrated it to me and I was able to help the mother in great pain. I also learnt how to remove a urinary catheter and remove a canula from the hand of a patient. This experience is invaluable,” said Cameron.

Getting hands on experience on the front line

Palwasha Javed

Javed said she felt gratitude to be allowed to help the doctors and nurses. “At his moment we are only doing the basics like checking the blood pressure and other vitals of patients, administering antibiotics via IV lines, doing early morning rounds to visit patients and monitor them, while the doctors and nurses are busy in isolation wards handling COVID 19 patients. We are not directly in touch with any such patients.”

Priya Rani

Priya Rani, a Bangladeshi national and fourth year student said she felt grateful even running errands between nurses stations, filling out discharge protocols and doing paperwork. “I am happy to help all the nurses who are doing such a great job and working so hard, bearing a lot of load of the treatment. As a volunteer I am not only getting an insight into how a hospital really works but lessons in compassion, patience and putting the needs of others first.”

Mohammad Rayyan

Mohammd Rayyan, another fourth year medical student said he was delighted to work 8 hours a day at the hospital. “Initially all our parents were apprehensive and protective, but we convinced them that we wanted to be at the frontline because this was the profession we had chosen and this was a call of duty for all of us. Not responding to it was not an option. All of us complete our lectures when we go back in the evening as the lectures are online and we are able to log on later. But this experience is invaluable to us and we are happy to be able to offer our services in a crisis like this.”

Nursing volunteers work at government hospitals

At least five other nursing students from GMU hailing from Indian , Krygystan and Yemen who have registered as volunteers are working in Ministry of Health hospitals in Dubai, Ajman, Um Al Quwain and also for the Red Crescent.

Commenting on the magnanimous response from GMU student volunteers, Prof. Hossam Hamdy, the Chancellor of GMU said, “We are not surprised by the eagerness of students to volunteer their services, irrespective of the risks involved, as the world battles the pandemic. Commitment to the medical profession is something we imbibe in our students. GMU students volunteer regularly at medical and health camps for the benefit of the general public. Furthermore, for the students, providing support to the medical professionals at the frontlines will be an invaluable experience and learning opportunity.”