Med students around the world face a crucial decision.
February 22, 2021
Staff Writer at Motus News
It goes without saying that the effects of this pandemic have reached every corner of the world, affecting people from every walk of life. While holed up at home and forcing some semblance of normalcy through socially distant activities, medical students around the world are being given the choice to graduate early and join the “fight against COVID-19” in an “all hands on deck” spirit. However, graduations and events with their peers are not the only thing medical students are missing out on. In light of vaccines being accessible to the public, let’s take a year in review of how COVID-19 is really impacting future medical professionals who now have the skills of maneuvering through a pandemic to put under their belt.
While the decision to graduate early and aid other hospital staff is entirely optional and a popular choice amongst countries severely understaffed in the medical field, there is room for questioning whether the decision is sound or not. The treatment of patients battling COVID-19 doesn’t require a specific skill set belonging to a singular stream of medicine, so on a theoretical basis, sending soon-to-be interns out into a hospital setting armed with scrubs seems alright on the surface. However, as the layers peel away, a core of these students being mentored by overworked and tired doctors and nurses begins to show. An unspoken truth is that there is no decisive path taken by medical experience and internships post-COVID. Hospitals and states have conflicting views on whether or not to take on more med students as interns while they fend off an ICU ward with increasing patients due to the number of positive cases: on one hand, the risk of exposing more people to the virus, and on the other, an understaffed and critically overwhelmed pool of healthcare professionals who could use an extra pair of hands. A potential worry is the strain that working in these high-tension and inevitably stressful environments will severely impact the mental health of the students in these positions. No doubt many of their highly anticipated clinical internship postings reserved for post-graduates would have taken the back burner, if not cancelled entirely.
Amidst graduation concerns and a general disruption caused by COVID-19 lies the sob story of freshly-minted med students in the initial years of their medical education. Clinical experiences and the hands-on learning that comes through keen observation and being present in a supervised hospital setting is simply out of the question, and a rising worry among this school of students is how it is going to impact the rest of their learning. For them, the impact this will have on their career is not imminent, and so it can take a backseat to the pressing concern that is the testing of their clinical skills which simply isn’t the same when done through the screen of a laptop.