Not since the Spanish Flu swept across the world a century ago, infecting 500 million people (nearly a quarter of the world’s population at the time) and killing tens of millions has a global pandemic caused such chaos in our daily lives. Among the field most affected is education and medical students in particular feel thrown for a loop. After all, any medical student’s ultimate goal is to help patients through their toughest health challenges. Yet, the steadily growing body of restrictions in place to keep citizens safe and curb the Coronavirus spread means many students find themselves feeling helpless.
Not to worry. Despite suspended clinical rotations and other restrictions on direct patient contact, there are multiple ways medical students can contribute. Here are five ways we’re seeing your peers help:
- Jeffanie Wu, a first-year medical student at Nashville’s Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, worked with classmates and the schools administration to offer child care services to hospital staff.
- Students at multiple schools are setting up triage hotlines to help callers screen for COVID-19 symptoms before they head to the hospital unnecessarily. Such hotlines can go a long way in minimizing stress on hospitals, emergency rooms, urgent care centers and other health care facilities.
- While Wayne State University School of Medicine’s student-run clinic in Detroit is operating at minimal capacity, students are refilling medications so that patients have a two-month supply to limit the need to return to clinic.
- Christine Petrin, a fourth-year medical student at Tulane University School of Medicine earned a master’s in public health prior to entering medical school. That background allowed her to compile and examine per-capita COVID-19 data in New Orleans and found that the situation in New Orleans, a tourist town and transportation hub, was more dire than being reported.
- Another third-year Tulane student, Frances Gill, is working with the nonprofit New Orleans Medical Reserve Corps to conduct patient in-take at testing COVID-19 testing sites, allowing medical professionals to focus more on actual testing.
- Students at the University of California, San Francisco, School of Medicine recently collected 23,000 protective masks to distribute to healthcare workers, patients and others.
- UCSF students also identified another major community need: blood donations. They’re partnering with local blood banks and university staff to work out logistics including finding spaces, coordinating volunteers and assuring blood drives are done safely. Dozens of students also are donating blood, themselves.
- University of North Carolina School of Medicine students are accompanying Chapel Hill-area paramedics on visits to patients too sick to go out but too well to need hospitalization. While students don’t enter residences, they’re reachable via radio to run supplies back and forth so that paramedics won’t have to remove their personal protection equipment.
- Kenzie Corbin, a first-year student at the University of Michigan Medical School, whipped up a recipe of isopropyl alcohol, aloe vera gel and essential oil, based on recommendations by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, to make and distribute more than 100 bottles of homemade hand sanitizer to shelters in Detroit and Ann Arbor.
- Pet-loving UM students also are volunteering to walk healthcare providers’ dogs, feed their cats, etc., assuring that beloved four-legged family members are cared for, too.
We here at WOLFPACC applaud all efforts by medical students to contribute to the efforts to curb the coronavirus spread and care for both patients and providers. Be sure to heed all requirements and recommendations to keep yourself and others safe.
*Photo credit: Alec Favale