Coping in Isolation: Am I Ready?


Am I Ready?

By: Jessica Satya Graha

Edited by: Sophie He

Not all heroes wear capes. Some wear scrubs, complete their five moments of hand hygiene, don their PPE, endure hours of discomfort from their N95 masks, doff everything, then repeat the same process to see the next patient.

As a medical student, I have looked up to all the healthcare professionals who risked their own safety during the COVID-19 pandemic. And it is scary to think that in 1.5 years... I will be one of them. And like so many other medical students, I feel so unqualified for what is to come. ‘Imposter syndrome' is common among medical students; the feeling of incompetency in being surrounded by high-achievers, the anxiety about making mistakes, the embarrassment from lacking core knowledge, the shame of not attaining perfection. It certainly didn't help when COVID limited our access to education.

Thousands of Australian medical students have had their education and clinical experience impacted by the global pandemic [1]. Some were not permitted to attend clinical placement, whilst others had limited patient interactions to reduce the spread of COVID-19. During this time, the focus shifted towards the medical workforce (and rightly so), which meant that at times, it felt as if we (the future medical workforce) were somewhat neglected.

Nothing can fully replace clinical experience; hearing patients’ stories, performing physical examinations, being part of the treating team, learning about the complexities of managing each patient. Our teachers were the frontline workers whose time was limited by busy schedules and emergency situations. But who could blame them? If a tutorial was delayed or cancelled because of a Code Blue, what more could be done?

We also often forget that there is more to medical school than simply medicine. Students not only lost two years of clinical experience, but also two years of opportunities that come with medical school.

The sense of camaraderie of study groups.

The heart-warming gesture of doctors buying coffee for the team after ward rounds.

The excitement of social events organised by student committees.

The chance to learn from senior student mentors.

The opportunity to share our experiences with younger students.

Whilst students’ social lives have taken a hit in the past two years, one of the students we interviewed stated that they became more grateful after experiencing this period of isolation

'Pre-COVID, social events would fill me with dread and extreme anxiety, leading me to put off preparations for them in the hopes that I could just say I didn't have anything planned and not go. However, after having a bit of time living away from people and being in lockdown, I realised how much I enjoyed these events and it really made me rethink how much I loved being with my friends.'

Despite all the challenges we have encountered, we have also learnt so much in the last two years. We have learnt to become more flexible after having our schedules shifted due to emergency situations. We have learnt to become more creative after having experienced different modalities of learning. We have learnt to problem-solve after having balanced our studies, personal responsibilities, employment and wellbeing. We have learnt to adapt to an evolving and unpredictable world. And we have learnt invaluable life skills that will equip us for the future.

And so the question of 'Am I Ready?'

Well... we have endured the challenges of a global pandemic. So I have faith that the future of healthcare will be led by some amazing future doctors.

[1] Davis, J., 2022. Two years of medical education during COVID-19 - InSight+. [online] InSight+. Available at: