Eduardo Mata, a medical school student in his sixth semester at Universidad Autónoma del Estado de Hidalgo in Pachuca, Mexico, had to adjust quickly to a new reality of learning medicine. As he begins the last half of his medical school career, Mata describes the unique struggles he’s faced because of COVID-19 and how he’s overcoming those challenges.
What was your schedule like before COVID-19?
My days were getting up in the morning, maybe around 6am or 7am, then going to my school. I was taking classes and I was sort of starting my clinical rotations. I was going first to my school, then to hospitals, then returning to my school, and then returning to my home. Some days I was coming back home around 10pm, so kind of late. I kind of realize I miss those old days.
When did you start to feel the effects of COVID-19?
Here in Mexico, this COVID-19 situation started around March 2020. Personally, I thought that this was just a little situation, maybe around two weeks of quarantine then coming back, but then it lasted almost 10 months. COVID started in March, so it was in the middle part of my fourth semester. Teachers and students weren’t prepared. We started improvising. Tests weren’t ready for online courses. The courses weren’t ready. The classes that were canceled were the clinical rotations at the hospitals, and now those “classes” were changed to online mode, and the new way of teaching those subjects were medical role-based simulations. Students being the doctors and teachers being the patients, for example.
In the fifth semester, we were more prepared. I was supposed to have started my clinical rotations. Because of COVID, I couldn’t go to the hospital. I missed all these clinical rotations. I used to study with theoretical things and stuff. I think it had a big impact there. Medicine is not the same since I can’t stand in front of a patient. It has impacted a lot of my med student life. I also think it affected my social relationships. I miss my friends too.
What are you missing in clinical rotations because of COVID-19?
Before COVID what we used to do depending on if you’re rotating in surgery or in gastroenterology. For example, if you’re in surgery you can’t assist the surgeons. You can’t help in the procedure. While he’s doing the surgery, he asks you some questions and then you reply to him. That’s the interaction. For example, in clinical specialties like gastroenterology, we are supposed to see the patients. The patients then come to tell us their problems and whatever issue they’re having. We are asking them these questions like clinical history. The doctor is telling us if we are doing right or wrong or what things we are missing. We also do the physical examination. If we do it wrong, of course, that doctor is going to yell at us.
What type of advice or help have you gotten that helped you power through?
First of all, we have some really good doctors that really want to share advice and help. They know our situation and they worry about the students. They worry we are not learning the same. Some doctors have a lot of interest in helping, so they really search for a way to make us learn. For example, they play the role of the patient. They tell me, “answer me. I have a headache, what are you going to do?” That’s kind of a really cool way to study in virtual med school. I have been using Lecturio since I was in my first semester. I really know Lecturio well. I have been using it when preparing for classes. I prepare myself for courses with Lecturio and with books I read in my house. I’m really prepared more for the class. I think it helped me a lot. Also, for example, when we are in classes if they are telling something I don’t know, I just turn to the right and look at my laptop and look for the definition or more info or images and that is how I’m trying to keep on working with med school being online.
How have you gotten creative with your studies during COVID-19?
For me, the worst part of this COVID situation is the lack of interaction with patients. My family is here because of COVID, so I used them as patients. For example, the auscultation of the heart. I tell my father, my older brothers, to take a sit in my office, which is my room. I use a stethoscope; I listen to their heart. I’m trying to be the doctor, so I don’t lose this touch of asking these questions and doing physical examinations. That’s the thing I’ve been using to be creative, using my family as patients. It’s funny because I am the younger brother. They see me as the doctor now. Of course, it’s not the same, but it’s better than nothing.
Also, you feel nervous asking your father examination questions when he is feeling sick. I think you lose this nervousness when you’re trying to practice in front of your family. Then you translate it to an actual patient so you’re not nervous anymore. It’s useful, I think.
How has COVID-19 changed your med school routine?
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