University students volunteer to answer phones for SNS24 health service hotline

Over 100 students from the University of the Algarve’s Medicine course have volunteered to answer phone calls for the national health service hotline SNS24 (808 24 24 24).

The hotline has been in constant demand ever since the outbreak of Covid-19 in Portugal, often being unable to answer the calls of everyone seeking its advice.

That is why these students jumped at the opportunity to help out, with the university setting up a temporary call centre in Faro where they started answering calls on Sunday in a bid to provide a much-needed boost to the hotline’s capacity.

“Many of our colleagues have already trained to be nurses and wanted to help at the hospitals because support from health professionals is much-needed at the moment. The rest of us were at home and wanted to assist in any way we could. As soon as we heard about this opportunity, we jumped at the chance to help,” fifth-year student Rúben Jacinto told RTP.

Marisa Alves, another fifth-year student, added that the students will merely stick to the advice provided by the national health board (DGS).

“We will not be providing our own advice, what’s on the news or what’s happening in other countries,” she said.
The task is daunting but their desire to help outweighs their fear of making mistakes.

Sixth-year student Isabel Carvalho stressed that “being able to communicate with people” and “being able to calm their concerns” is a huge part of their job.

“It has a lot to do with the way we talk to people,” she said.

In a statement to the press, the university says that the group includes Medicine students in their final year who already have a degree in Health or Science courses, which gives them the “necessary knowledge and maturity” for the job.

The call centre has been set up at Altice’s offices in Faro and will be open between 6am and midnight, with 30 students working simultaneously.

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