Stories from the front: New generation of doctors-in-training face unique challenges

In this series, Y2Z checks in with three medical interns—one each from Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao to get a glimpse on the effects of halted face-to-face and experiential learning amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Arvin Laude, 27, Davao City

How would you compare your clinical experiences before and during the pandemic?

I was already rotating in various departments. I remember an elderly woman, her whole left side was paralyzed and she could hardly speak. She had pneumonia, too, and the doctor told us she had two strokes before. The next day, our resident informed us that the patient had died.

I remember a medical mission in a remote barangay. We had an army escort due to insurgent activity nearby. What stood out was that a lot of people there don’t have adequate access to health care despite a paved road. Some who went to a previous doctor couldn’t be followed up. At the end of the day, our supplies of basic medications almost run out, and I’m not sure whether I should be happy that we helped or if I shouldn’t be because they’re not getting what they need.

All clinical experience ended as quarantine began in March 2020. Hell, I went through my whole senior clerkship online. We had to make do with paper cases and demo videos to at least try to learn, as if we were actually in hospitals.

A major shift in education has been a move to online learning. How do you think “clin-ex” can be done given the realities of an evolving virus?

Considering that the virus has a high tendency to mutate and evolve, this might be here for a really long time. Even if we’re to protect students, we should also keep in mind that online learning does have its limits. While face-to-face learning is almost impossible, perhaps clinical experience can be done in certain areas, with limitations. Going by group or by shift would be better than just sitting all day and learning theory alone.

Given the situation, how do you see the future of the medical establishment, from those in med school to those practicing in hospitals?

It will struggle. Hard. The current batch of clerks and interns get teased as “Google Docs.” With the pandemic we can’t do much about it, but we’ve got to realize that we eventually have to go to the frontlines. It might not be far-fetched to say that we won’t have as much developed skills as our pre-pandemic counterparts. Doctors would have to guide and teach today’s clerks and interns even more. This means that, along with the duties that the doctors already face, the fatigue and sometimes scorn from the very communities they serve, it would only be a matter of time until health-care quality would decline.

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