"I feel like keeping my medical hat on has helped me in a lot of ways," she explained over a recent Zoom call. Aged 27, Bose is battling cancer for a second time. The first bout cost her some of the bones and most of the muscle in her left leg. Metal rods have taken the place of the bones and strength training has helped rebuild some of the muscle. Bose is so well-versed in medicine because she's just 14 weeks shy of qualifying as a doctor in the UK. But for the last four months, it's not just cancer that's stood between her and a medical degree, it's Covid-19. Ongoing chemotherapy has so severely weakened her immune system that she's considered "clinically extremely vulnerable" -- even a mild bout of coronavirus could be deadly. Bose has been asked to shield, meaning she has to stay home as much as possible, going out only for exercise or health appointments -- not to work in a hospital, which is what's required to complete her medical training. "To feel like you have the skills, you have the knowledge, you could be an asset to those patients, it's hard to feel like you're wasting away on the sidelines," she said.
And she's not the only one. A survey published last month by the British Medical Association (BMA) found that among more than 7,000 doctors surveyed in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, more than 3% said they were clinically extremely vulnerable and shielding at home. A further 6.5% were living with someone who is clinically extremely vulnerable. There are about 200,000 doctors across the UK, according to the BMA. This means thousands may be unable to work on the front line during a national health crisis. Pre-pandemic, there was already a need for around 15,000 additional doctors nationwide, according to the Royal College of General Practitioners. Many shielding doctors have been re-assigned to video consultations or administrative work and Britain's National Health Service (NHS) is using tens of thousands of retired health workers to fill the gaps and help deliver vaccines. "The NHS welcomes every additional pair of safe clinical hands we can get right now," said Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, chair of the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges. "We, like almost every other health care system, have been under enormous pressure and our staff are tired and many are burnt out."
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