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Future Doctors Stuck at Home

Graphic drawn by Natasha Leong



I’m a fourth year medical student studying in Iowa, and I am only one week away from graduating. I’m looking forward to the next chapter of my life: residency.

Technically I’m still in school right now, with two months of online learning under my belt. Online learning is difficult for any student who experiences it, but with the addition of the medical component, it becomes unbelievably harder. It doesn’t matter how good the online resources are— there is always a difference between actively practicing the material versus reading notes and being told what to do.

This COVID era has presented us with the unique challenge of shortages of PPE, Personal Protective Equipment, wreaking havoc in hospitals, as anyone can gather just by keeping up with the news. This restriction of PPEs limits us medical students, along with our superiors who are working on the frontlines. No medical student in the country has been allowed to do rotations because we need an attending supervisor to check and approve our work, which leads to the effective doubling of PPE usage. I find this quite unfortunate because these rotations have been some of the most enriching experiences in my time as a student.

Nothing has been truly disrupted in my personal medical career during this pandemic because, and I think all fourth years can agree, it’s been just another case of senioritis. At this point, I’d say I’ve experienced and absorbed most of the knowledge that medical school can throw at me, so when COVID came around, I was just sitting around, waiting for my residency to begin anyway. However, third years are hit hard-- that’s the year that you have the biggest growth, in my opinion. The way COVID has affected things such as in-person simulation exams and practice rotations for these members of our community is worsened by the timing of where their training happens to be.

I certainly have deep anxieties about the future. Since I’m going into psychiatry, this pandemic will have a softer impact on me, but look at my peers who are focusing on COVID-related branches, receiving training in exclusively COVID-19 rather than a diverse spectrum of disorders and diseases. The hospital will be shaken even when things return to “normal.” Some of my closest friends at medical school fear they aren’t prepared for the adjustments that will have to be made after this first wave of the virus. Luckily, medical school does prepare you to think on your feet. You entered the field to help people, and the skills for that include resilience and patience. We could all use a little more of that, I think.


—Alex



Written by: Lily Zeng

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