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Medical students in the second frontline after covid: exam period

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“The life of a medical student is not easy” was said by many people when they heard that I plan on taking this path. I took notice of it, but it didn’t really bother me. I was sure in what I imagined.

I only started to think about this halfway through my first year:

A high school, where everyone always told you what you have to do, when you have to do it and what deadlines you need to stick to (to which the head teacher regularly called the attention to), is kind of like others were thinking for you in cardinal questions, which is appropriate in that life-stage. Stepping out of this protective environment is a highly important leap, but also a really terrifying one since we must take control entirely into our own hands, henceforward we will be the directors of our own play, raising the stake by this being about our life. This is ever so much true for those who went about their life in a distant city, far from the Alma mater, far from their home, family, friends, who have to rebuild themselves all alone (which should by the way also be self-identical), find friends, fit in and fight with their current problems. It is a very hard task but it excessively bards us for this wonder filled with struggles and challenges, called life.

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Studying medicine

Being a medic is a huge pride, however it puts up enormous expectations both from our side towards the university, from the university towards us and also from the society towards us.

We expect from our university to teach us according to its traditions, help us find our talent, give us a lot of prime knowledge, and the university expects from us to give back all that it has taught us as precisely as possible, shaped to fit us.

The society naturally and actually understandably (even though sometimes a little hyperbolically) expects from us to set an example like regarding healthy lifestyle just as in the field of sciences, furthermore, to acquire the “skills” which we will later on serve their health and lives with if we live up to the challenge.

These are the expectations that we enter the most beautiful time of our lives with: our university years.

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COVID

In the September of 2019 we had no idea that determining, and I might not even be exaggerating if I say that some of the hardest years of our lives are right around the corner. We began the school year in this state of ignorance, we dove into the semester starting party series with such abandon and rode out the winter exam period with this same ignorance.

The celebration of the successful exams was not even quite over but the first news already started coming, that something unexpected is in the air, something terrifying. It was exactly its terrifying nature that made people not want to take notice of it, make a joke out of it, however it still interested them somewhere, what this could be.

I remember that whenever I was having a conversation with my “laic” friends, they always tried to ask me what this is (just like the times when in case of any kind of pain your neighbor looks at you as if you were a brain researcher who has been on the course for 40 years and is by the way also a heart surgeon in their free time just as a hobby, but if they can not sleep is also able to conduct two child births before finding the solution for the whole nine yards), I realized that I also only know about this as much as remained from my exams: IT EXISTS, so virtually nothing but I tried to draw it as obliquely as possible garnished with a little optimism so that they don’t consider me “dumb”.

The fact that there was a thing that no one knows, in what tons of people are might going to die like in the movies was frightening but the possibility was there that this was just a hysteria.

The uncertainty was huge.

In the first wave everybody was just paying attention, taking care, and paying attention to what might happens. We did the same thing. The first news shot up that the medical students might will be drafted, there were two thoughts circling in my: “no way, impossible: what are they going to do with me there, I would just be under their feet” and “if they take me after all, then what should I do? I can’t go home, I catch it, too, what will happen?”

I was not called in then yet but besides all these it was pretty hard to focus on our exams in our heads. Leastwise we thought that that was hard.

After a pleasant summer, the numbers sky-rocketed again and it could be sensed that there will be huge trouble here. And there was: the clinics reported one after another that there weren’t enough people. Volunteers went, but it turned out that not enough, this was the time when an immense volunteer system was established, which contained hundreds of students, including me, as well.

What we were facing there was something that you could in no way prepare for, especially if you go there as a student, falling into a situation that otherwise the university preps them for deliberately over the course of years. We suddenly fell into the very depth of the crisis: the “red zone”.

We have seen it day after day how lives end so abruptly, how the professional workers are getting drained, how we fight for the patients, often in vain.

Of course, it could be said that that is what we signed up for when we went to the university.

Meanwhile another exam period was banging on the doors which cannot be avoided.

In spring with the arrival of the third wave, the leading part was taken from the volunteer system by the obligatory system, the calling out of medical students has started. This whole thing went like his, all of a sudden, an email, a phone call or a letter came that you are obligated for medical service hereof-up to this point PERIOD.

It was frightening that practically you could be called out anywhere for four weeks.

With all these events behind our backs we started the spring exam period in an out-of-the-way (in the negative sense of the word) mood. The morale of students was awfully run-down, which is no wonder since the happenings of the past year could fundamentally rock people’s motivation and personality. These are harsh words, that’s why I wrote them in conditional tense.

If there is trouble: speak up!

Only those with an extremely strong personality are able to cope with all this without flinching.

These experiences forced all of us to grow, and in a way that we consciously or unconsciously incorporate the negative/positive experiences and furthermore the consequences drawn from them into our persona, hereby kind of composing a shield around ourselves, which if it must, also acts as a recourse in similar situations. In case something doesn’t add up in this integration, it can result in smaller or bigger, but even serious consequences regarding the future. Of course, the above mentioned does not only stand for the COVID situation but even for the exam period or other life situations.

You cannot always weather the storm alone!

It’s not beneficial if we only try to view to world with our own “one track mind” and this is when the role of our friends comes in the picture. However, there can be situations, during which an external bystander is not enough, but it becomes necessary to take in a “soul scientist”, so that we don’t fall into our own selves’ damaging spiral. Contacting these scientist people – either a psychologist or a psychiatrist – does not infer the fact that there is any problem with us, or we are nutty.

Not by a long way! As a matter of fact, we only become really strong by accepting that there are situations which we cannot solve on our own, we recognize that we need help but not because we are ill, rather the opposite, so that we won’t get ill.

Because of this, there is a constant opportunity at the university for health psychology counselling, which you can get further information about here.

Translated by: Virág Édes 

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