COVID, Computers & Communication: A Med School Update

Hi guys! Hope you’re all doing well, living your best lives. I can’t believe we’re so deep into September already, time feels like it’s slipping out of my hands nowadays, but recently things have picked up a bit again because I’ve started university for this year. I wanted to give you all an update on what’s going on in my academic life as I start my third year of my medical degree!

Overview of Third Year

So, third year looks a bit different (to how it normally would have looked) because of COVID. This year we have two weeks of induction (which is what’s going on currently), then a block where we learn clinical skills from the get-go. They mentioned that they introduced this so we can be a bit more useful on the wards, which makes sense. After that, we start our blocks of medicine/surgery. We have one general medicine & one general surgery block, and then two acute medicine blocks, to make a total of four placements. These can be located at our base hospital or its linked District General Hospitals.

Teaching and Learning

Granted that all I really know about teaching is what we’ve been told it will be like, and a few induction sessions in which we’ve had our first taste of Zoom breakout rooms, I’m sure this experience will be one that evolves throughout the year. In reality, going from real life learning to online will probably have many obstacles even beyond the ones that the administration have already figured out.

The model they are implementing this year is the blended learning model in which there will be a mix of online and real-life teaching. From what we’ve been told, pretty much all the regular teaching will be online, except for some bedside teaching. That means content, communication skills, ethics and law, etc. will all be taught online, besides maybe some aspects of certain topics, which they pointed out would be done in a socially distanced manner at the hospital.

While we’re still learning clinical skills, however, and practising examinations, we’ll be doing in-person teaching because those things are essentially impossible to do online. During our actual blocks, besides the regular teaching we’ll be getting, we’ll be doing shifts, similar to other members of the healthcare team.

How I’m Feeling

The excitement I have at the prospect of real-life human interaction really trumps any other feeling I’m experiencing at the moment, because quarantine and lockdown have really been hard in that sense. There’s something about the camaraderie that comes with being clueless students on wards, pretending to know what they’re doing that I just miss! Nothing like new, uncomfortable situations to make people bond.

In addition to that, I’m looking forward to learning more advanced clinical skills like venepuncture and cannulation, and I think it’ll be nice to be of use on wards, hopefully. Even though the thought of eventually being proficient in these skills feels like a very long way away, I’m trying to embrace the process of getting there.

On the flip side, I know that new environments and I don’t mix very well. Not that I’ll never get used to it, but I think it’ll take me time, especially given the fact that we’ll be at various different hospitals throughout the academic year. I’m trying to stay positive about third year because I don’t want to go in with negative preconceptions, especially in this new era where things will definitely be different to normal and I’ve already been able to formulate my opinion on things like online teaching. I know that for me, university provides a lot of direction in my life and I just feel like a more put-together person when I have university to focus on alongside my other interests.

I hope you guys found that entertaining and maybe at least a little bit informative. As I said earlier, things will no doubt be evolving a lot as we progress, so what we know now may be wildly different by the end of this year. How are your schools and universities changing their teaching processes as a result of COVID? I would love to hear!

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