While becoming a doctor has its share of hardships and struggles entailed within the process, the current batch of interns and young medical professionals have undoubtedly experienced it on unprecedented levels whilst battling against the novel Covid-19 pandemic that has struck the world off-guard. Many of these young individuals have been devoting their physical and mental well-being into treating patients in this time of dire crisis, giving in to demanding working hours in order to do their part.
With medical students being on leave as social distancing is continually being practiced all over the country, most of the interns are also starting to be taken off their duties. For instance, although Bangladesh Medical College & Hospital (BMCH) had a group of interns working till March 25, 2020, the hospital decided to put a halt to the intake of new batches of interns for the time being.
When asked about the experience on duty, Dr. Samiha Jabin Susmita, 25, intern at BMCH said, "Initially, while there was a worldwide shortage in protective gear, there was more so in Bangladesh. Necessary equipment like N95 respirators, disposable PPEs, masks, gloves, sanitizers and other safety essentials were hard to come by at the start and it was becoming quite dangerous to conduct treatments in this manner. On the upside, however, the supplies are starting to come in and developments are being made."
Even though the situation has improved through supplies arriving from various sources, certain teaching hospitals like Sir Salimullah Medical College and Shaheed Suhrawardy Medical College still opted to put their interns on leave from hospital duty with senior doctors alone taking charge of all operations.
However, institutions like Dhaka Medical College & Hospital (DMCH) still have some interns and young medical professionals working around the clock. When asked about the preparedness of these newly qualified doctors, honorary medical officer at DMCH Dr. Farheen Jahan Sohani, 26, said "In medical school our learning consisted of extended focus on theory rather than on the attainment of practical knowledge. As a result, there was almost no training or discussion on preparedness for any pandemic. After becoming doctors, we got to attend continuing medical education (CMEs), lectures and seminars to better prepare us to deal with such situations. Moreover, several Covid-19 specific online seminars and collaboration amongst doctors during this crisis have equipped us to be more prepared."
Learning on the job and relying on collaborative treatment by consulting with various experts of the disease has become a norm in these uncertain times with the silver lining being a stronger sense of unity in young and to-be doctors' communities working together to fight this pandemic.
Although Covid-19 tests are conducted solely by the IEDCR, and with ICDDR,B given permission just today, distinguishing the likely patients to be sent for testing becomes quite challenging considering how the virus showcases generic flu-like symptoms in its early stages. The struggle begins during the admission of new patients. While taking history records relating to travel, contact and the like, patients sometimes tend to conceal data and become rather uncooperative in fear of having to get tested. Needless to say, all of this endangers the other patients as well as the doctors and nurses on call.
Assistant registrar at BMCH Dr. Shudeshna Purba, 25, said, "We had to treat many patients who had respiratory symptoms without knowing whether they were Covid-19 positive or not, which induced a certain level of anxiety among the staff and other patients. Being one of the leading private hospitals providing inexpensive treatment to the poor, several space-related constraints make it harder to keep the patients from making contact with each other."
Regarding the gruesome working hours and extensive effort of being on call around the hospital during these morbid times she added, "It is very hard being a young doctor and having to risk our lives every day, endangering our families to an extent. However, we are doing our part and it is important for the patients and everyone else to do theirs too." Hence, while doctors are doing their best to ensure right treatment, incoming patients need to do their part by providing accurate historical data of their whereabouts and symptoms for the safety of all those associated in a hospital environment. The importance of creating awareness regarding the severity of the novel coronavirus cannot be emphasised enough, a lack of which causes neglect and denial from the patients when testing becomes a priority.
It is indeed quite challenging to keep a level head among the panic-stricken citizens and ensure that proper treatments are being continually provided. The emotional and mental pressure which comes with it is immense as Dr. Alif Laila, 26, honorary medical officer at DMCH said, "There is a certain degree of mental pressure involved with the added concern of getting infected ourselves or our family members due to lack of proper PPEs. We often find ourselves examining undiagnosed patients in fear."
Thus in addition to the cumulative effort of our health care professionals all over the country and the world as a whole, it's time for us to give back and cooperate with these unsung heroes as much as possible. The way to do this may include social distancing, reducing panic-visits to the hospitals and allowing the medical professionals to focus on patients who actually need the treatment. When asked about the current scenario, Dr. Laila added, "More people are now taking this seriously and staying home. There has been a decrease in the number of patients in the hospital as people are taking more preventative measures and using IEDCR hotlines instead of crowding at hospitals. As for us, we are trying our best to give primary treatment to all patients during admission and referring suspected cases to Covid-19 listed hospitals as much as possible."
Although there has been a positive response aiding in better handling of the pandemic all over the country, in order for this to persist and for us to cumulatively fight this disease once and for all, necessary steps need to be taken. It is important to continue respective home quarantines and take care of oneself as well as of parents and elders, keeping wary of misinformation and rumours and making sure to maintain proper hygiene protocols. Moreover, spreading awareness through social media from reliable sources like the World Health Organization (WHO) is highly advised while people are urged to collect funds and donate as much as they can to the daily wage earners and the underprivileged.
In conclusion, now is the time to stay home, stay clean and do your part however you can. After all, prevention is always better than cure.