COVID-19 has affected each individual person in various different ways. For example, the pandemic has forced loved ones to miss out on each other’s significant milestones; those immuno-compromised cannot safely leave their homes. COVID-19 caused disrupted the daily ‘normal’ life that we used to know.
For medical students (Nursing, Pharmacy, Medical School) at Memorial University, the effects of COVID-19 remain palpable; learning continues to be impacted.
For example, some students were forced to enter the workforce due to Newfoundland’s dire need for people in the medical field. Still, they cannot acquire the proper hands-on learning taught in previous years because of COVID rules and regulations.
Nursing students specifically have been significantly affected in their clinical learning.
Clinical is a hands-on learning experience that all nursing students must complete during their studies. Some clinical placements include working alongside experienced nurses in hospitals, long-term care, and other jobs they could be hired for after graduation. This type of learning is exceptionally crucial in the nursing field. However, COVID regulations have tainted this experience in the past two years.
During the Winter 2022 semester, COVID-19 outbreaks caused semesters to start online. This impacted MUNL Nursing and CNS (Centre of Nursing Studies) students as they could not begin their clinical training in January as they were supposed to. As of now, there are no plans to make up for this lost month.
Nursing students also missed out on an array of physical examinations (nose, mouth and throat; anything with cranial nerves related to the tongue), as COVID-19 regulations prohibited the performance of such exams due to mask mandates and social distancing rules.
Medical school students have been facing similar challenges to those in nursing.
Traditionally, the clerkship programs require students to shadow medical professionals in fields such as; Psychiatry, Obstetrics/Gynecology, Surgery, Pediatrics and Internal Medicine. However, COVID regulations partially compromised these clerkships.
Medical students have also had to compromise the social aspects of their studies. Typically, in the 4th year of Medical School, students get to pick electives in different schools across Canada and travel across Canada for the entire semester. This is no longer available because of travel restrictions.
The loss of hands-on learning is crucial in the new process of medical education. However, the loss of social opportunity is unfortunate, as it highly contributes to one’s university experience- something relevant for everyone.
It is no shock to anyone to say that COVID regulations have affected the entirety of university education and social experience. Online learning has not been ideal for many people. Every student’s university experience has been compromised in some shape or form.
However, hands-on learning is an essential necessity for students in the medical field. It is challenging to teach and learn everything they need to know correctly.
Universities have done their best with COVID regulations to accommodate such rules and still teach students everything they need to know.
Still, it is hard not to wonder how this will affect the future of medical students and their real-life experience in the medical world. Although this hindering could be seen as a disadvantage to those students, it could also be an advantage.
Medical science is advancing with the COVID-19, and students within the medical field are watching and learning as it is changing:
“The COVID-19 epidemic may represent an enduring transformation in medicine with the advancement of telehealth, adaptive research protocols, and clinical trials with flexible approaches to achieve solutions. There are many examples whereby learning from difficult experiences (e.g., emergence of HIV, response to disasters) changed discovery, science, and patient care. Students and educators can help document and analyze the effects of current changes to learn and apply new principles and practices to the future. This is not only a time to contribute to the advancement of medical education in the setting of active curricular innovation and transformation. But it may be a seminal moment for many disciplines in medicine.”(Suzanne Rose, MD; Medical Student Education in the Time of COVID-19)
Today’s students learning medicine are learning with the changing times, which can be seen as a massive advantage. COVID-19 rules and regulations have hindered some aspects of learning in the medical field. However, medical students are also witnessing the making of history.
Their education is essential as upcoming essential workers.