HealthEd

4 Concrete Actions Medical Students Can Take to Raise the Line and Help Fight COVID-19

Reilly Bealer
Published on Apr 23, 2020. Updated on Sep 15, 2020.

During the COVID19 outbreak, many medical schools have switched to an online learning platform and/or cancelled clinical clerkships. As we watch our medical community fight this battle, the feeling of helplessness can be overwhelming. Osmosis Medical Education Fellow Reilly Bealer shares her tips on how you can contribute to the fight and help to raise the line, flatten the curve, and slow the spread of COVID-19.

As future healthcare workers and human beings, we are feeling the toll that the COVID-19 outbreak has taken on our society. Medical students can make a difference in their own communities during this difficult period. 


Donate blood!

With increasing voluntary and mandated social distancing, many locations that blood drives are typically held (universities, community events, etc) have shut down. This has led to a severe blood shortage across the country. For areas where “Shelter In Place” restrictions are active, blood donation serves as an exemption to these. Make sure to call ahead or schedule an appointment for donation online. 

There is a significant need for donations from those with O negative blood types, but all blood types are encouraged to donate. Visit this link to find a blood donation center near you!


Look into ways your local community is helping

There are multiple state-wide and national efforts to support the medical community during this pandemic. I encourage you all to invest in your local communities and assess the current needs that these areas face. 

Contacting a trusted faculty member or your school's student affairs office for resources that they may be able to provide you is a great way to get started. Another option would be to contact your local health department. Many county/state public health departments are looking for volunteers to help with a wide range of roles surrounding public health outreach, screening, and other COVID testing related efforts. 

It is important to remain in communication with your medical school administration to be aware of appropriate medical student involvement. All efforts should adhere to CDC guidelines.

Students across the US are contributing to the COVID-19 relief effort: visit this active document to see what they're up to.

Osmosis illustration of a student volunteering at a COVID-19 clinic.

Use social media to share reliable information on COVID-19

In the age of the 24-hour news cycle and accessibility to massive amounts of information, it can be hard for the public to sort through and process what's true and what's not. As a part of the medical community, we are seen as a respected source of information by our family, friends, and society. This means that we have a responsibility to distribute evidence-based facts and advice. 

Some continuously updated resources that you can provide your families include web pages from the CDC and the WHO

Osmosis also has many easy-to-understand resources that you can share with your family. You can also check out a comprehensive list of all the content Osmosis has produced on the pandemic to date on their COVID-19 resources page

Here are some of my favorite COVID-19 resources on the Osmosis blog:

Reach out to legislators regarding PPE shortages 

Across the country, healthcare workers are being endangered by a severe lack of PPE (personal protection equipment) including masks, face shields, isolation gowns, and N95 respirators. The issue stems from lack of preparation for the healthcare material requirements during a widespread pandemic. Currently, the demand for PPE from medical facilities across the globe are outpacing the supply and production ability of manufacturing companies. 

There are a few ways that students can advocate for increased support of our healthcare providers. One way is to encourage your legislators to push for utilization of the Defense Production Act (DPA) to increase production of necessary medical equipment during the COVID19 pandemic including PPE. Take a look at some grassroots efforts to support PPE expansion at Masks for Docs and and GetUsPPE.org

Another way to advocate for healthcare workers is to ask your representatives to encourage future budgets and other legislative efforts to include funding for healthcare workers and facilities. 

You can use this website to identify who your state and federal representatives are. The best way to contact your legislators at this time is through email. Here is a draft as a starting point for your advocacy efforts: 

Example:  

My name is Jane Doe. 

I am a first year medical student and a constituent of [Senator/Representative XYZ]. I would like to ask if you would be willing to advocate for utilization of the Defense Protection Act for essential health care materials used to respond to the Coronavirus pandemic).

Osmosis illustration of a student calling a representative about PPE shortages.

We Can Make A Difference 

Although feelings of uncertainty and helplessness have been prominent during this health crisis, a sense of worldwide unity has developed. The large scale victories we strive for depend on small changes from each person. Following guidelines from the WHO and CDC regarding staying home and following safe hygiene practices may not seem like much, but in the end, these actions will save many lives. 

I will leave you with this quote, “I am only one, but still I am one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something; and because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do something that I can do.” - Hellen Keller

About Reilly

Reilly Bealer is a second-year medical student at Washington State University. She hopes to specialize in Internal Medicine and pursue a fellowship in Critical Care or Gastroenterology. Some of her hobbies including political advocacy, baking vegan treats, and playing outside with her two dogs, Milo and Piper.



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