Finding our Way Back to the Clinics: A Third-Year Medical Student Perspective
May 03, 2022
By Joana Marie Cruz, UPCM 2024
From “What Zoom link are we using today?” to “What do we need to bring to the OPD for today’s duty?,” change has been constant in the second semester for UPCM LU5 students as face-to-face classes resumed. This shift has brought about unimaginable emotions of worry, nervousness, excitement, and happiness all together. Waking up early thinking, “We will be in the OPD today,” “We will be learning new sets of clinical skills with the entire block,” or “We will be presenting clinical cases in front of the residents and coordinators,” truly adds a dose of motivation and inspiration, especially after mornings filled with synchronous Zoom sessions and physical examinations on stuffed toys. Our daily routine would have probably been more familiar, maybe even less anticipated, if COVID-19 did not happen. Change is a lot to take in, but one thing’s for sure, it’s good to be back.
A core memory from our first year days, the facade of Calderon Hall always welcomes us with open arms.
“A medical student sitting in front of her desk studying
Does not capture what it’s like doing medical school online.
From having to set up an area conducive for learning to fighting Zoom fatigue,
There’s so much that’s happening behind-the-scenes.”
Having to learn medicine online was never easy. There were a lot of silent battles behind Zoom lectures and SGDs. The voices and images reflected in our audio and cameras could only capture so much of what was there at the moment—students who set an alarm minutes before the lecture or SGD so they could log in just in time for the session, students who patiently wait to unmute their microphones to ask questions, and students who had to drink coffee or do short exercises to maintain their attention for the entire day. Behind these were moments of reflection if what we were learning was enough. During the online med school setup, we missed several OSCEs, OPD duties, and many more clinical experiences, but as assured by many coordinators and residents, we were doing the best at the moment. Brushing up on our theoretical knowledge, we sought to read our books, watch comprehensive videos, and practice our history-taking and physical examination skills. Indeed, any step forward was a significant one amidst a global pandemic.
Before the pandemic happened, over 180 students spent their LU3 days here: chatting, studying, eating, and even napping. This was the setting of many milestones in medicine.
“Nothing can beat the passion of students
Who for two years have been waiting for the perfect opportunity
To learn and experience firsthand
The medical skills they have only been hearing about.”
However hard we tried each day, most students would say that some things can never be learned online. Key lessons are found by being in the moment and experiencing new things on our own. This was what was missing during the past two years of online medical school. While the components of a complete patient history and physical examination were familiar to us, it is only by experiencing it firsthand that we realize that we cannot always follow the sequence and that we should know how to adapt to different patient scenarios. For example, we can understand the method of properly examining the nose of the patient using a nasal speculum through reading books, but we will only realize that keeping the thumb at the fulcrum while supporting the nose with our index finger and holding the rest of the speculum steady would take more practice than we expected. We were also taught palpation and auscultation through watching videos and listening to abnormal lung and heart sounds, only to realize that abnormal findings are harder to discern for someone who has not heard it in person before. Indeed, there is still much to learn. Being back in the clinics after two years, however, is somehow our saving grace: opening avenues for us to discover more.
With the advent of limited face-to-face classes, students maximize each opportunity to learn as many skills and apply learnings that they have gained during online classes. In Photo: Block 5 (UPCM 2024) Students during the Blood Extraction Workshop offered by the Department of Medicine.
“Studying medicine is already an uphill battle from the start
Covid-19 did not make the road less tough
But it may have led us to find and understand
The balance we ought to find in this career path
And learn how in the hardest of times, we remain resilient.”
Studying medicine has never been never easy, but the struggles, pains, and hardships that come with it are alleviated by the study breaks with friends who share the same experiences and patient encounters that remind us of our purpose. When the pandemic began, there were no invitations of “tara kain” after an exam, no shoulder taps and hugs of comfort when feeling down, no clinical experiences to remind us of our why’s. Sources of comfort of med life suddenly disappeared in the past two years. On the other hand, the pandemic actually gave us time to slow down, be on our own, and take hold of our time. We were able to spend meaningful moments with our families and learn new things outside medicine. Our online medicine experience was unyielding at times, but it opened doors to some things that were unexpectedly beautiful.
Looking back at our first moments in UPCM from when we passed our requirements in the admission’s office, sat for hours to wait for our interview, waited for the list of accepted students, first met our classmates, first wore our white uniforms, took our first medical exam, to when we had to bid goodbye when classes were suspended because of the COVID-19 pandemic, a lot has happened since the day we decided to pursue medicine. Who would have thought that UPCM Class 2024 will be one of the batches to experience medical school during a pandemic? It was hard for everyone, but the growing passion to learn and become the medical doctors we envision ourselves to be never left us. Akin to our class cheer, every medical student will keep “forging legacies” no matter what happens—to keep learning, to be better doctors, and to serve the underserved.
Eager medical students return to the halls of Buenafe for their ORL skills building with Dr. Jeannette Matsuo and ORL residents. In Photo: Block 2 (UPCM 2024) students with Dr. Jeannette Matsuo and ORL residents.