What is the most important way by which a medical student learns?

Yes, Apart from textbooks and classroom lectures, one of the important means by which medicos learn and gain practical knowledge is via clinical training.

For decades, medical students have been employing their knowledge and skills in clinical environments to acquire the required qualifications for taking care of patients, and their success depends to a great extent on efficient clinical training. No wonder clinical training is regarded as the heart and essence of learning and education in Medicine. Furthermore, the clinical learning environment plays an important role in turning medical students into professionals and preparing them to function as qualified doctors.

However, the medical students of the current batch are yet to get a real taste of this core learning procedure, all thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic. With the unprecedented pandemic hitting the country, all the medical colleges across the nation, which are considered as the powerhouse of India’s healthcare setup, have been converted into dedicated COVID facilities. This transformation has certainly brought in a shadow of uncertainty over the clinical exposure of current medical students.

As we entered into the ninth month of the Covid-19 pandemic, the doctors of two top medical colleges that come under the ambit of the Delhi government are the first ones to come forward as they are exasperated by the months-long suspension of medical education in these institutions.

The resident doctors of the Maulana Azad Medical College and the University College of Medical Sciences told that they have requested the hospital authorities to turn two associated hospitals — Lok Nayak Jai Prakash Narayan (LNJP) Hospital and Guru Teg Bahadur (GTB) Hospital — into non-Covid facilities and resume clinical practices of over 3,000 undergraduate and postgraduate students studying there.

The LNJP and GTB have currently dedicated Covid facilities. Since non-Covid treatments have been stopped in these two hospitals, the academic resident doctors said that the learning of the medical students has been affected severely. Besides, their exclusivity for Covid patients is denying the non-Covid patients their right to treatment, they added.

Maulana Azad Medical College (MAMC) and LNJP Hospital are pioneer teaching hospitals and share the responsibility of training more than thousands of undergraduate and postgraduate students every year. Restricting LNJP to only Covid duty is seriously hindering the training and education of these students. This in future will also lead to long-lasting damage to the society and public health

Keshave Singh, President, Resident Doctors Association, MAMC

According to doctors, the concerned authorities could split the campus into COVID and non-COVID care centres. “We are just asking the authorities to open half the services for non-COVID patients. It will not just benefit the doctors, but also the non-COVID patients, who are not getting better treatment,” Singh further said. The situation remains more or less the same all across the country.

To get a clear picture of the existing scenario, DailyRounds had conducted an online poll through our social media platforms to analyse the response of the medical community. The poll titled “Do you think medical colleges should be delisted from dedicated COVID-19 facilities to resume clinical training for medicos?”, received over 5000 responses on our Instagram handle. Out of which, a large majority, that is 79% of the responders think- “Yes, it’s high time to delist Medical colleges for the sake of clinical training”. However, 21% believe that it’s not the best way forward.

Similarly, the Twitter poll published on the same topic shows that 77 percent of the responders want medical colleges to restart clinical training irrespective of the pandemic. “Of course! It’s the need of the hour. We need clinical practice to resume as soon as possible. Even though there are online classes, they don’t do much benefit for us as medical students,” said one of the responders in reply to the post.

Yes, there’s a double-edged sword hanging over the present situation. If medical colleges are delisted from dedicated COVID-19 facilities all of a sudden, the entire healthcare infrastructure of the nation to combat COVID-19 might collapse. On the other hand, we don’t know how long the pandemic will last, so waiting to get back to the ‘normal’ to restart the clinical training doesn’t make much sense either.

Even though online training and clinical video based classes are used to substitute the actual clinical training, we cannot expect those to provide real life learning experiences to the students. One thing is for sure, we can’t let this situation go any further. The government and concerned authorities should figure out a solution for this ongoing crisis which is supposed to have huge implications for the future. With every passing day, the young medicos are losing valuable time for acquiring and refining their clinical skills. This will hamper the knowledge of doctors who will go on to become senior physicians and surgeons of tomorrow!

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