Problems Medical Students are facing in Covid-19

By: Abeer Shahzad

Covid-19” – a term we hadn’t heard of being used as widely – before March 2020 – when the novel coronavirus outbreak was declared a global pandemic. This disease has definitely had a barbaric effect on the population, with COVID-19 deaths worldwide exceeding up to 3.5 million. The Covid-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on the lives of many. More than 1.5 billion students and youth across the planet are no longer physically in school after the closure of schools and universities across many jurisdictions. Families have been detached worldwide and more than one million people have been pushed into extreme poverty as a consequence of COVID-19. 

Medical students’ mental health status is already poorer than that of the general population, with academic stress being a chief predictor, and to this recurrent worry, the pandemic has added a source of supplementary trauma. Most medical schools have been suspended during the pandemic, and as such, many students are staying at home. Medical students were pulled from universities, hospitals, and clinics during February/March 2020 to reduce the risk of spreading the virus, conserve scarce resources, and protect students and others. First year medical students were in the middle of their blood module sequence, second year medical students were half way done with their endocrinology module, third and fourth years were completing clinical ward rounds or sub-internships, and fifth years were in their final months before graduating. This change created an abrupt social isolation for most students and uncertainty over the next months, not only about what was to come next in our education, but also what our role should be during this unprecedented pandemic. Universities worldwide have switched to online-mode of teaching with proposed methods including scheduled live online video lectures with interactive discussions and the utilization of several different programs or self-study online recorded lectures made available to them. 

Coping up with academic strain during this outbreak didn’t set in well with the initial months of MBBS for most of us. First year is usually an exciting time as freshmen encounter enormous changes in terms of friends, curriculum and because of the enormous responsibilities for personal and intellectual growth. However, due to the closure of universities in Karachi, our university has implemented a hybrid education model entangling one week of online classes followed by three days of on-campus tutorial and demo sessions exercised by dividing the batch into groups while ensuring that strict standard operating procedures are being enacted. 

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Once you get accepted to university (after those weeks of extensive entrance test preparations), the next step necessitates communicating with your batchmates and engaging with them as you are all indeed fellow passengers in the same boat. This tread of ‘surviving medical college’ was quite restricted for us as the inceptive three weeks of our academic year were spent taking online classes at home. This confined our interaction with peers and seniors who could’ve guided us streets ahead and assisted us in overcoming the sea of challenges and uncertainties we ran into while undergoing the period of transition from college to medical university. 

Selecting the right books is another hurdle medical students face during their first year. This complication is eased by seeking advice from sophomores and seniors who’ve suffered through similar incidences of scepticism and ambiguity. These course books are difficult to choose from as there lie so many alternatives for each one and since every person usually recommends a different book, the feeling of indecisiveness really hits you at that instance. This phase would’ve been much easier to deal with if universities were open as it would provide us access to check out the books in the library or borrow them from our immediate seniors so we could have a gist of the information and images they entail before investing into any. 

Another bout we endured was the lack of motivation to study. First year is completely different from what we’d studied up to A-levels/intermediate. The syllabus is humongous, studying one night before the exam isn’t sufficient, some topics are demanding and difficult to deal with and have to be revised over and over again. Group work can be an effective method to avoid procrastination, encourage active learning, and develop key critical-thinking, communication, and decision-making skills. However due to limited involvement in university and lack of social connections, this has been quite challenging for us to practice. 

Also Read: Can COVID-19 vaccines affect periods? – What we Know

First- and second-year medical students, who learn mainly in lecture halls, could still transition to remote platforms. But clinical students, those in their third and fourth years of medical school, worked in hospitals pre-covid period. This means that these students faced new concerns about their health, their education, and their roles in patient care.

Pulling medical students out of the hospital can have long-term consequences. There’s no online substitute for learning direct patient care; sending students home would likely halt their education. It could even delay graduating an entire class of new physicians, since students work on tight timelines to finish all the requirements necessary to become doctors. With many changes underway, students are looking to adapt to new forms of medical care, including virtual patient visits, and the changes in restrictions on away rotations, conferences, and virtual interviews for residency. 

COVID-19 has disrupted the medical curriculum, but the system is adapting to work to support our successful medical education. Instead of being ungrateful and complaining about the contemporary situation, all of us should practice gratitude and stay grounded to optimism. Many of us are leading a much finer quality of life, we live in a house large enough to practice social distancing, have access to e-learning and are supported by front-liners who are working relentlessly for the protection and safety of the communities. Play your part wisely by getting vaccinated and taking in all the necessary precautions to stay safe so we flatten the curve together!


Abeer is a highly passionate, optimistic dual city dweller with her progeny originating from Pakistan. She’s a first year medical student pursuing MBBS in her hometown Karachi and aims to account her daily life challenges, struggles and setbacks experienced by an overseas candidate in this wen. Her hobbies include reading non-fiction publications, baking, Henna designing, volunteering when an opportunity arises and watching YouTube videos. Times when she’s not cemented to her academic books, she’s usually found outside enjoying the weather, speaking to her friends on call or sipping green tea/coffee. You can learn more about her on: https://chroniclebyabeer.wordpress.com/


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