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How might the pandemic change medical school?

By Tanweer Kurmo

Since Covid-19 has been declared as a pandemic by WHO in March 2020, the whole world has been trying to find new ways to adjust to the new normal. Medical school has been no exception. Being a third-year medical student, a lot of changes have been brought about so that our training could be continued efficiently.

All our teaching sessions had been moved to online zoom sessions. While we have been able to conveniently join these classes from the comfort of our rooms (sometimes even beds), I feel that some of the communication skills sessions are better taught in person. When these teaching sessions are face-to-face, you are able to better express yourself when it comes to body language and building a good rapport with the simulated patients. Also, during some zoom lectures where the camera can be turned off, I feel that the focus is reduced as I get easily distracted and am mostly scrolling on my phone!

For me, indeed, in-person teaching would be the preferred way though I recognise that it’s for our own safety that everything was moved online. As restrictions are easing off slowly, we should hopefully be able to enjoy our traditional teaching environments, with familiar faces around us and not on a screen!

This year has been my first clinical year and thankfully our hospital placements have not been cancelled. By following all the Covid-19 protocols and wearing the correct PPE equipment, we were allowed on the wards to practise our communication and practical skills. Our timetables have been adjusted so that the number of students allocated on wards is limited according to government guidelines. All our practical skills sessions were still ongoing in small groups. I am so grateful that we were allowed on placements because there isn’t any other way of learning medicine other than being on the wards and practising our skills. Yes, it’s a bit of a struggle when speaking and listening with a mask on while standing 2 metres apart, but I think at the end of the day, everyone got used to it. We were also given scrubs to be worn while on hospital premises, which I am so glad about given that meant ten more minutes in bed in the morning!

During our hospital placements, we were also able to meet some friends and colleagues on the wards which I was so grateful for given that we were unable to do so socially. At least we still had some real conversations with people around us! Regarding our exams, the semester one exam was online and open book; I don’t know how that helped honestly. The time is very limited and believe me, most of the time even Google can’t answer those questions set by medical school! Our semester 2 exams were all in person; OSCEs would definitely not have worked on zoom!

Indeed, a lot of adjustments have been implemented by medical school in the face of this

pandemic. Yet, the essence of clinical years of medical students has been maintained with our clinical placements. Clearly, there can’t be any other alternatives for that.

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