Healthcare education has implemented major changes in a bid to mitigate COVID-19 spread. It has shifted classes online and terminated student-patient contact for the foreseeable future. Long-distance communication and virtual interaction with patients have become the new normal. As education suffers, experts opine that perhaps medicine sector has been the worst hit by COVID-19 virus. Since a chunk of medicine learning is dependent on interacting with patients and diagnoses, students grapple under the shutdown of colleges and other adverse effects of COVID-19 on medical education.
Due to the surge of the novel coronavirus, lack of protective gear, high risk of infection and a gap in learning many medical students find no option other than staying homebound.
The emergency has brought in the concept of telemedicine whereby students establish virtual contact with patients. In India, registered medical practitioners have switched to teleconsultations following the telemedicine guidelines as framed by NITI Aayog, Board of Governors (BoG) and (Medical Council of India (MCI).
“Disasters and pandemics pose unique challenges in providing healthcare. Though telemedicine will not solve them all, it is well suited for scenarios in which medical practitioners can evaluate and manage patients. A telemedicine visit can be conducted without exposing staff to viruses/infections in the times of such outbreaks,” an excerpt from the telemedicine guidelines.
However, experts opine that across healthcare institutes, various alternatives, such as remote learning, and hybrid learning models have failed to replace complete clinical immersion that provide hands-on experience to medical students.
Previously, the medical students had staged a protest against lack of infrastructure and appearing physically for UG and PG exams even amidst high risks of infection.
“I have been working as an assistant for the last two months in my college hospital catering to COVID-19 patients. I have seen the risks involved first-hand and I have done my part professionally. The state government should not force us to risk our lives again by compelling us to appear for exams along with several other students, faculty and staff,” comments Hetal Mehta, a final year MBBS student.
The problem of managing studies is manifold for those medical students who have been asked to vacate their PG or hostel accommodation in Indian cities worst hit by the pandemic.