Cut off from friends: one tough year

One year of COVID-19: Medical student Mark Nixon reflects on one year on the pandemic front line 

Location: Northern Ireland
Last reviewed: 22 March 2021
mark nixon

In his gap year after graduating from medical school, Mark Nixon (pictured) worked as a technician at Beech Hall Covid Centre in Belfast Health and social care trust as part of the pandemic response

What did you first think when you heard about COVID?

Initially I didn’t think much of it but soon after I realised that this would be a massive health issue. Seeing the images from northern Italy frightened me.

What was the low point of the pandemic for you?

Not being able to see friends and family has been very tough at times. Celebrating birthdays, graduations etc is something I will never take for granted again.

Were there any positive points?

I have been very fortunate to be employed in various Belfast Trust COVID settings and have met great people from every part of the NHS. Despite having had some challenging days the spirit amongst all the teams has been high.

How has your life changed – personally and professionally?

Personally, I have been more retrospective, and it has allowed me to view my future with the realisation that life is short and unpredictable. My experiences in the COVID centres have been a great way to get a foot in the door of the NHS and to learn a lot of things that you can’t get from the textbooks (and some you can!).

Did you learn anything about yourself because of this?

I have learnt that I prefer a fast-paced working environment, obviously it’s preferable when there are fewer sick patients but the weeks that I enjoyed the most were the really busy ones.

What one thing (or bit of advice?) would you tell / give yourself back at the start of the pandemic?

I’d have told myself to relax a little more during the initial lockdowns and enjoy the downtime rather than to see it as something completely negative.