COVID-19 forces medical school students to learn new era of medicine

Published: Sep. 8, 2020 at 5:13 PM CDT
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GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) - We’ve all seen the changes COVID-19 has forced schools to make, and that includes students in some of the highest levels of education.

We’re talking about those in medical school, soon-to-be doctors, who rely on hands-on learning to be successful and keep people healthy.

Learning during a pandemic is changing this next generation of doctors.

Fourth year UW-School of Medicine and Public Health students Jane Salutz and Kush Patel would much rather focus on helping real people get healthy instead of practicing on mannequins, but just like others still in school, they’re adapting to a new way of learning mid-pandemic.

“I think it’s something we’ve definitely learned from,” says Salutz.

When COVID-19 began closing nearly everything in March, the two med students were sent home, too.

“One week into our two week rotations it was... well, we’re going home,” says Patel. “Our school had to come up with a plan on how to continue our education.”

Just like other students, their learning also went virtual.

They turned attention to public health, learning how medicine evolved during other pandemics and how it applies to this one.

“At the time, I was really frustrated that I was having to leave my schooling and worried I’d be behind for residency and all those selfish stresses I was noticing in myself,” says Salutz. “I had to take a step back and focus on... well this is what we need to do to keep everyone safe in our community and that’s what we need to do, and it’s kind of made that drive stronger in me.”

At first, the students were not allowed to be around any patients with respiratory concerns, but that, too, is slowly changing.

“No matter how hard you try you can’t really replicate the real experience, and for future providers who are going to be going out in the community and taking care of people, it’s extremely important that they continue to have that patient contact,” says Dr. Ryan Murphy, an emergency medicine physician with BayCare Clinic, who helps guide and teach the students.

They take more precautions like masking and even more hand washing, and they still might not see some patients.

But they know this is medical history in the making, and they’ll need to know how to work in this new era of medicine.

“It is different, and I think these changes are going to be here for a long time,” says Patel. “I think that’s going to be here for the better.”

The students are also learning other real-time adaptations, like tele-health appointments, which they expect to be using more of in the future.

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