This COVID-19 pandemic has brought inconveniences to all of us. Some only to a lesser extent while some has to actually press pause to their entire lives. Whether you’re in the former or the latter, we’re all on the same bottomline: this is an unfortunate year.
This is true especially to us doctors-to-be and incoming Clinical Clerks (4th year medicine). This year is our most awaited time when we will be finally deployed to the hospitals and experience for the first time the bittersweet realities of our profession.
As a national mandate for all medical schools, the 1st of June is always the start of clerkship. This is the time when residents and consultants get to have their new set of “assistants” inside the hospital. This is also the time when unconfident medical students with only textbook knowledge get to interact with actual patients and get the feels of being a clinician. Although clerks are often dubbed as the lowest creature in the totempole, they are in fact the major work force in keeping the hospital running.
Unfortunately for our batch, three months before this most awaited date a pandemic happened. The schools were closed and students had to #stayathome and get education via online platforms and literally strive to learn for and by ourselves. All unlicensed medical professionals (PGIs and clerks alike) were pulled out from the hospitals leaving only the real MDs on the frontline. All forms of internship are suspended and doctors under training have no choice but to engage in online learning platforms.
The 1st of June which would have been a historic day for my career has turned into just an ordinary day. Me, wearing PJs at home endlessly browsing my socmed accounts hoping to see a sliver of good news given all the events happening globally. It would have been the day I’d appear in my first hospital duty wearing my white uniform, my name embroidered on the left upper side of my chest just above a small pocket where I have all my pens ready to be borrowed by anyone supervising me. A stethoscope dangling around my neck, a small black bag which contains all my duty essentials round my waist, and a nervous smile on my face. But that day would now come on a later date which no one knows when.
The national association for medstudents released a memo stating that as long as #communityquarantine exists (in all its forms) no face-to-face classes as well as internship programs shall resume. And given our country’s current COVID-19 statistics, it is very unlikely that CQ will be lifted as soon as September this year. This means that our clerkship will be done online indefinitely.
I understand that the suspension was made for our safety. But I was extremely anxious when I learned that starting July 1 we will commence another online learning platform in place of what would have been exciting hospital duties. We will still be learning theorical knowledge, discussing cases based on what our textbooks say, and practicing fundamental skills on whatever dummy we can find at home. To be honest, I have been doing CPR on my pillow for months now in compliance to our video OSCEs.
I’ve been worrying for my future self because I feel like online clerkship will never give me the training and preparation that I need to become an efficient and effective healer. Are online sessions enough to equip me to become a 5-star Physician? Most importantly, medicine is a skill-based profession. How am I going to hone these skills if I’m staying at home just watching YouTube videos on how to suture or how to deliver a baby?
I was re-reading #SomeDaysBook (Some Days You Cannot Save Them All) by Dr. Ronnie Baticulon, a renowned NeuroSurgeon in the country. My very own sentiments are summarized in these words highlighted at the back cover of the book.
I wasn’t choosing between A, B, C and D on a test paper anymore. I had stood between life and death and I faltered.
I faltered. My greatest fear right now is to falter. Taking a multiple choice examination isn’t the same with deciding what to do when a patient is dying in front of me. How would I know if I’m on-duty at home just talking to my consultants on Zoom? Sure I can perfect all the quizzes they give on our online platforms but can I actually save a life? When placed in an emergency situation in the hospital, can I actually manage?
I’m afraid I won’t be trained enough and that there will be lives lost because of my inadequacy.
But tonight I realized that these things I’m worrying about are things that are not within my control. These are things that have happened and are meant to happen. How I handle it is the only difference I can make.
This is all I got right now. I have no choice. So instead of worrying, I should be doing my best with what’s right in front of me while I keep myself fully surrendered to the One who called me to this profession.
I also shouldn’t be looking at this situation as an unfortunate event. This year is undeniably peculiarly difficult. But this year is another opportunity to learn. I have more time to review/recap all the topics I missed reading on my textbooks. I have more time to read non-academic books and train my self beyond curriculum. I have more time to prepare my heart and mind and soul that sooner or later I will be one with the frontliners combating all sorts of diseases and saving lives.
Shouldn’t I be more grateful that I am called to this profession at a time of a global pandemic when the healthcare system is at the verge of collapsing? The future of healthcare is in our hands. And we should be glad that we’re training and preparing ourselves amidst all odds.
Perhaps, this year isn’t unfortunate after all. I just have to put things into perspective.