July 13, 2020
There have been several changes made in the United States due to COVID-19. Our hospitals and urgent care centers are no exception. In fact, some of the changes that have been made in how medical facilities operate or the procedures our medical professionals follow are a massive shift from what we’re all used to. Even our medical students aren’t immune to the changes.
Even getting tested for COVID-19 is somewhat strange. Typically, if you’re ill enough to visit the hospital, you would just go, sit in the waiting room amongst everyone else and see a doctor when they were available. The procedure for patients that believe they have contracted COVID-19 is much different. If you believe you have COVID-19, you’re first advised to call the hospital. Based on that call they may tell you to come in for a test, but if your symptoms aren’t close enough to those of the virus, it’s suggested you simply stay home. In an attempt to not expose yourself to the virus, avoiding the inside of hospitals, unless it’s necessary, is advised. Some patients getting testing for COVID-19 are even swabbed in their car in an attempt to protect both the patient getting tested and those patients inside of the hospital. The idea of getting tested for a virus while sitting in your own car is so far from the norm, it’s almost unbelievable.
At a time when doctors, nurses and other medical professionals are in such high demand, it’s interesting to see how medical students’ lives have changed. The pressure to join the workforce in saving lives combined with the restrictions to their schooling; it’s almost cruel. Students who might have traveled abroad to study at different universities around the world or help developing nations are now being kept from fulfilling their dreams. International students who studied at some of the United States’ top medical schools were turned away.
However, travel bans aren’t the only limitation our medical students are facing. “Some schools forbid any patient interaction, whereas others have recruited students for hospital-based roles or even graduated medical students early so that they can serve as frontline clinicians.” This is a lose-lose situation. Either we’re keeping our students from learning, by taking away the in-person interaction required to fully learn, or we’re sending them to a pandemic battleground without proper preparation in an attempt to put more useful bodies in our hospitals. There are massive problems with either solution, but can we really expect our students and young medical professionals to be the ones to suffer?
Ann Weinacker is the Senior Vice Chair of Medicine for Clinical Operations at Stanford University’s medical school. When asked about how they were handling the current situation, she responded, “It has been a total learning experience. What we knew four months ago is very different then what we know now. For a while in the beginning we had a meeting every day about the virus just to try and keep up with the amount of new information we were getting. Now it’s backed down to only one meeting a week, but we’re still striving to educate our students and also help our patients.” Despite the steps they’ve taken to educate, the students of Stanford’s medical school aren’t actively working with COVID-19 patients in an attempt to keep students out of harm’s way. “Students were kept away from the COVID-19 patients, but we’ve been lucky since the number of cases here have been low. But we’re not so sure we’re going to be spared forever. Our numbers are going up, and some people are being transferred to us. We didn’t want to expose any more people then we had to. When students are exposed to COVID-19 patients we’ve been lucky to have personal protective equipment (PPE).”
One of the biggest changes in the medical field is the public’s part in it. Medical professionals need our help to save lives during this pandemic. Never before has the public banded together quite like this in an attempt to help those around them. The increase of sanitization of our hands and other surfaces and the wearing of masks are two of the biggest examples of this. TikTok user @redjax_dast even posted a video of a Spiderman web-slinger-style sanitizer sprayer they made to keep from touching potentially contaminated surfaces. While the masks and excessive hand washing might be a bit of an inconvenience to some, it’s important to remember to do it so we can not only protect ourselves, but those around us.
The world is rapidly changing due to the current pandemic. Some changes are on the positive side and some changes feel devastating. It’s important to continue to follow CDC guidelines, especially with fall approaching in a few months. We’re not out of the woods yet.
Joey Warren is a senior in professional and public writing. When not studying you can find her watching Netflix in her pajamas, advocating for women and LGBTQ youth or taking pictures of ducks. You can follow her on Instagram @jortay_ole.