Ireland rugby international Claire McLaughlin says all the study she did training to be a doctor has not prepared her for the challenges presented by the coronavirus pandemic.

The 28-year-old backrow forward is a junior doctor at the Ulster Hospital's Accident and Emergency Department.

She told the BBC on Friday that nevertheless all the medical staff were coming together to form an effective unit in tending to the sick.

"I could never have imagined being involved in something like this," she said.

"It's not something you're really taught about going through university and medical school.

"But we're all in this together, doctors, nurses and all the health care professionals. It's really showing that we all are coming together as a healthcare system."

As of Thursday 36 people have died of coronavirus in Northern Ireland with 449 testing positive. McLaughlin says her hospital is yet to be swamped with cases but were taking note of patterns in other countries as a possible reference point of what could be coming.

"It is worrying in that we don't know how bad it's going to get or when it's going to get to that point," she said.

"Obviously we are taking information on what's happening in China and Italy and seeing what way they have dealt with things and how the virus has impacted on them and their healthcare systems."

McLaughlin admits sending other patients home in anticipating a host of admissions with coronavirus carries its own risks. "We have had to change how we manage patients within Accident & Emergency (A&E)," she said.

"There are certain patients who, three or four weeks ago, we would have been admitting to hospital whom we are now sending home.

"There's even risk involved in that and changing the way we do our medical practice."

McLaughlin - capped 16 times since making her Test debut in 2015 - says she has been able to use values she has learned from rugby in her day job.

"There are certain things that medical school can't teach you," she said.

"Leadership, communication and team work are all things that rugby has massively helped me to develop.

"It's been hugely important transferring those skills into medicine and into the day-to-day job that I'm doing. I've learnt so much through playing rugby."