With schools and universities partially closed across the world, due to the COVID-19 outbreak, and with an added emphasis on social distancing, many medical students are left wondering if there is any way they can help their local community. Recently the American Association of Medical Colleagues (AAMC) forced medical schools to suspend student internships, saying that “medical students should not be involved in any direct patient care activities”. However, the American College of Physicians (ACP), the second largest medical organization in the U.S., voiced their frustration with the decision in the Annals of Internal Medicine article. The article written by David Gibbes Miller, claimed that allowing medical students to serve, could improve patient healthcare, before hospitals and HCPs reach a crisis.
The ACP outlined three definitive ways; medical students can help ease the work tension of HCPs during the pandemic.
• Students can care for inpatient services, from those are not infected with COVID-19.
• Students can remotely care for patients, who are experiencing corona-like symptoms, but have yet to be admitted into a medical facility.
• Students can assist with routine outpatient care, including routine check-ins, chronic conditions, and treating pregnant women. This would be achieved through telemedicine.
In order to support his claims David Gilles Miller gave two historical examples, of when medical students were asked to help HCPs during an outbreak. The first example was the 1918 Spanish flu, where medical students out of the University of Pennsylvania, treated patients as if they were credited professionals. The second example, was the 1956 polio epidemic, where a group of medical students were given the duty of ventilating patients. The ACP went on to claim, that medical students are willing and able to help fight COVID-19, and that their assistance could potentially save thousands of lives.
One Group of medical students has already started helping their community:
In the Toronto area, a group of medical students, have already joined the fight against the coronavirus. While these students knew they were not licensed professionals, they still figured that HCPs could use help with tasks outside of the medical field. This group of Canadian students created an online forum, asking anyone available and willing, to spare a couple of hours and be matched with a HCP, to assist them anyway possible. Volunteers have claimed their chores have included, cleaning houses, picking up prescriptions, taking care of pets and other errands. In some instances, students who are musically gifted, were asked to play guitar and piano for the hospital patients, while keeping them company. Still most volunteers agreed that the most common errand asked of them, is babysitting, thanks to the pandemic forcing children service buildings to be closed for the foreseeable future. Unfortunately, because online classes resume next week, the schedule for this group of volunteers won’t be as flexible.