COVID-19 Could Delay Completion for Health-Care Students Programs

Photo by Luis Melendez on Unsplash

By: Nicole Heller / Staff Writer

Doctors and nurses are needed in hospitals more than ever, but health care students are not being allowed to do their clinical rotations which are necessary to graduate. 

“COVID-19 has delayed all education. There are no students in hospitals as they all are suspended by the universities at a national level,” said the Infectious Disease Specialist Dr. Jorge Murillo, during an interview with PantherNOW. 

Dr. Dan Arreaza, the academic medical advisor at Kaplan, suggests that although the cancellations aim to protect students and patients, he is worried about the potential effects on the student side. 

“Every day I see students that feel unmotivated and stressed about not knowing what their next steps are going to be,” said Arreaza. 

He also said he has seen cases of students who are also very worried about not having the time to do their core rotations like pediatrics or surgery. 

This could also affect the experience students will have when they will be able to enter the healthcare workforce. 

Furthermore, Dr. Arreaza explained that as a part of their medical curriculum students have to complete four tests called the USMLE’s. 

“These tests are usually extremely difficult and are a vital part of their application to a medical specialty,” Dr. Arreaza said.  

He mentioned that students typically take the first test after their second year in Medical School. Due to the pandemic, students haven’t been able to sit for their tests and are going through a very difficult time not knowing what the future holds and when they are going to be able to take their examination. 

“Once the students start the preparation for this type of test, they usually set up a very specific timeline that guides them on when they will be ready to take the exam, having it rescheduled or canceled can generate a great deal of anxiety and stress,” said Dr. Arreaza. 

The timing for these tests is usually very strict because they need to be done with their tests before applying to residency and continue with their medical formation.

Camila Franco, a third-year medical student, explained to PantherNOW that she is worried about not being able to graduate on time because she might not be able to meet her training requirements and take all the USMLE tests when she had planned.  

“I miss going to the hospital because the patient encounter is what I love about medicine. I don’t have regrets about my career choice. On the contrary, I feel proud of becoming part of the American Health Care workforce,” said Franco. “However, I am worried about how it’s going to be like once we come back to the hospital and I do wonder when that day is going to come.”

Dr. Murillo.

Dr. Murillo stays positive affirming that everything will be figured out during the next months and students will graduate but will just have to adapt to a new way of studying. 

“There is a plan from some universities now, that if things improve and they open up, students will return,” said Dr. Murillo. Universities will be providing protective equipment so that hospitals do not have to give them as they need it and there are shortages. 

He discussed how the future is full of uncertainty and that there are various possible scenarios including the catastrophic possibility of experiencing a second wave, or we could be seeing multiple peaks for the next one or two years. Hopefully, the change is what we all wish for, that COVID-19 disappears completely. 

Regardless of the scenario, Dr. Murillo suggests that health care professionals will still be obligated to maintain precautions as cases may continue to come sporadically to the hospital. Professionals will be ready to test many people, especially people who come for respiratory problems, and new mechanisms to study people will be learned as time goes by. 

“I don’t take off my protective equipment. Now you don’t hear me well because I have my mask and protective glasses on,” said Dr. Murillo.

 The new reality for students once they are integrated into their clinical rotations, will be one in which they all have to take precautions with most patients, they will have to be more attentive to how are the numbers of cases that are entering to the hospitals, and always have protection equipment just like the rest of the doctors and nurses. 

Dr. Murillo advises all health care students to not feel discouraged by this situation and instead, educate yourself by listening to experts who know about this and not from “charlatans”. 

“We need people. We need doctors more than ever”, Dr. Murillo said.

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