WORLD

Medical Students Join Australia’s Fight Against COVID-19

"We're doing work that is within the scope of our clinical training, like administrative tasks, basic procedural skills, so that we can reduce the load on other healthcare workers so that they can then be freed up to work on the frontline if we see a surge in COVID-19 cases," medical student from the University of Melbourne Shipraa Kaul said.
26 Apr 2020 09:02
Medical Students Join Australia’s Fight Against COVID-19
Abbie Kanagarajah is in work at the Footscray Hospital in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo provided by the interviewee)

The global fight against COVID-19 has taken an unprecedented toll on health services, leaving doctors and nurses overstretched and desperate for relief. So when medical students in Australia were given the opportunity to step up and lend a hand, most jumped at the opportunity.

For nearly one month, students from the University of Melbourne have been helping out in hospitals across the state of Victoria, and are coping well with a sudden early start to their medical career.

Among those students are 24-year-old Abbie Kanagarajah and 25-year-old Shipraa Kaul, who have been working at Footscray Hospital in inner Melbourne.

The students told Xinhua that they are happy to do whatever they can to take the strain off the system and keep medical services running smoothly while the COVID-19 pandemic persists.

“We’re doing work that is within the scope of our clinical training, like administrative tasks, basic procedural skills, so that we can reduce the load on other healthcare workers so that they can then be freed up to work on the frontline if we see a surge in COVID-19 cases,” Kaul said.

A global pandemic is a challenging time to start work in the medical profession, and the students said that it has been a unique privilege to have firsthand experience in their chosen industry.

“I think it’s quite interesting to see healthcare in this current climate, how the systems are working and how people are accommodating and how things have changed,” Kanagarajah said.

“With all that’s going on, I think being able to see that sort of firsthand experience is quite a unique privilege. I’ve learned a lot about pandemic and how our healthcare system responds to that.”

While the students have been paid for their work, the recruitment process was entirely voluntary and driven by their eagerness to take part.

There have also been risks involved and a hospital is the last place that most people would want to find themselves at this time. But the students said that with a few basic hygiene techniques they have kept themselves safe and their parents from worrying about them too much.

“The parents are always worried, but they are also supportive,” Kanagarajah said.

“I had a discussion with my parents, and we came up with strategies to reduce the risk, like as soon as I get home have a hot shower first and if I’m feeling any symptoms, I would self isolate and not go to work,” Kaul added.

Shipraa Kaul is at the Footscray Hospital in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo provided by the interviewee)

Shipraa Kaul is at the Footscray Hospital in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo provided by the interviewee)

From behind, the university has been supporting the students as much as possible, providing extra training in things such as accessing electronic medical records and the proper use of personal protective equipment, which has been ongoing throughout the process.

“There’s been definitely a big feeling of collegiality amongst everyone and it’s one of those situations that really does bring people together,” Kanagarajah said.

With no end clearly in sight to the COVID-19 pandemic it’s comforting to know that a new generation of dedicated and skilled medical professionals is always there to help the community through a very difficult time.

Stephen Lew, director of Medical Student Education, Western Clinical School, at the University of Melbourne, told Xinhua that he was impressed by the student’s willingness to take part.

“This is a situation where the students actually really wanted to take part, they really wanted to help. So I think that’s magnificent that they wanted to because they didn’t have to, but they’ve chosen to,” Lew said.

Beyond what the students have done to help out the medical system, they have also likely greatly benefited from the experience and the lessons they have learnt, Lew explained.

“They’re helping doctors, dealing with patients, working in the ward and working among the nursing staff, talking to the pharmacy — so they’re learning a lot about the role that they’re actually going to take on next year,” he said.

 

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