Though many students are missing out on their year abroad, Siobhan has used this article to showcase how the pandemic has drastically affected medical students.
As I was going into this week, I faced my last few days of isolation. I reflected on the start of my first semester and how sorry I was feeling for myself, not strolling round the streets of Italy, when my best friend Liv facetimed me. She was telling me about starting a new year as a student nurse, her placement, and overall, just how she was feeling to go back to working in a ward while COVID is rife. Straight after our call I ran into the other room where my sister Megan was on facetime to my mum and younger sister celebrating the end to her Masters in Clinical Cardiac Physiology. Whilst doing her masters, my sister has run clinics and had a full-time job as a cardiac physiologist for the NHS down south. I realised how lucky I am to be surrounded by these incredible and selfless women, and decided it was time to ask them how they managed it all. How did you study during this pandemic? How did you stay positive and motivated? Therefore, this week’s segment I take my eyes off Italy and put them closely on the women, workers, students and heroes around me, to focus on how we can all improve ourselves this academic year, pandemic or not.
My first questions were for Liv, who’s a student nurse, entering her second year at university.
How was it studying and completing first year during this pandemic?
Liv- “When the pandemic began, I was on my first hospital placement, within the first week the death rates in the UK were rising quickly. It seemed surreal working on a ward, revising and writing essays while this was all going on. After three weeks the university stopped our placements which gave me more time to focus on my assignments and what was happening around me. Not the end to my first year I expected!”
How are you feeling for second year and placement?
Liv- “Because of the circumstances, I still currently have no timetable for university yet and I only found out my placement a week ago. I’m fairly nervous after 7 months off but I felt like this last year, nothing can prepare you for this type of course, you just have to go in with an open mind and a warm personality.”
What would be your advice? How do you stay motivated?
Liv- “Be yourself, personality goes a long way! Also educate yourself. When you find out your placement, research the ward and message your mentor, they’ll put your mind at ease and it’ll make you more confident for your first day, trust me!”
Liv- “It was hard to stay motivated at first but the time off allowed me to focus on my assignments (which I passed all of them whoop whoop), it also allowed me to find some peace in the madness by exploring hobbies like baking, reminding yourself of what you’re passionate about helps you on your low days.”
I then asked my sister Megan questions referring to her full-time work schedule and her completion of her MSc in Clinical Cardiac Physiology.
How was it working throughout the pandemic whilst studying?
Megan- “For the first couple of months it was a good distraction, being able to focus my attention on something other than my shifts and the pandemic, especially when seeing friends and family wasn’t an option. More recently, when we have been trying to catch up on routine work in Cardiology, fitting in time to write up my research project was at times a bit challenging.”
How did you manage your time?
Megan- “I’d say it’s all down to organisation. You have to be realistic and ask yourself what are your priorities. For me I wanted to maintain working full-time, I also wanted to do well in my MSc and balance my social life. That meant I started on deadlines a lot earlier than I would have for my undergrad degree. I would plan my weeks out on a large calendar with a ‘do a little bit but often’ mentality and that meant I had better chance of meeting all of my priorities.”
What would your advice be to any masters or third year students?
Megan- “I would say that although teaching has moved to a virtual platform and that can be susceptible to a level of disengagement, get a routine that motivates and works for you. I am so jealous you can watch a lecture from home in bed with a tea if you want! I also found presenting virtually a lot less nerve-wracking than in person, so that may be a positive for some of you!”
How did you stay motivated and positive?
Megan- “My motivation was always a mixture of thinking how grateful I was to be in the position I was in, that I was supported to do an MSc but also how much I wanted it. However, your motivation isn’t always high every day, sometimes you have none at all and you feel burnt out – and that’s normal! I’d advise you over-plan your dedicated study time and then if you have any of these dips, take that time to do something you’d prefer to do that day instead as a treat i.e. binge-watch Desperate Housewives. This means that you won’t feel as stressed as you’ll have given yourself plenty of time to balance motivated and less motivated days. Everyone’s mental health is different, the important thing is that you’re kind to yourself!”
As you can see, they both experienced lows and highs but managed to stay motivated and pass their studies and for that I salute you both. They’re a true inspiration to me and they both remind me of how lucky I am to be in this position. Online lectures aren’t too bad, and there is a light at the end of the tunnel, with family and friends like this surrounding me and offering me advice on how to stay motivated it is hard not to stay positive. However, although you both inspire me, I’ll leave the saving lives to you.