Coronavirus, We Are Stronger Than You Are

Hello from home my friends and family.

I am unsure how to start off this post. The COVID-19 pandemic has been a shock to us all and has had a drastic impact on everyone’s day-to-day life. For medical students (and everyone I am sure), it has brought about much uncertainty and anxiety.

For Denzel and I, 2020 is the year that we will apply to and interview for residency programs. Residency is your first job as a doctor after completing medical school. The application process is rigorous and several requirements must be met in order to be considered a competitive candidate. We have worked hard the past three years to complete these requirements and now, as fourth year medical students, we are preparing for our board exams and completing elective rotations in our specialty of choice to get strong letters of recommendation for our application.

Our plan was to take February and March off to study and complete our two preliminary exams and our USMLE Step 2 Clinical Knowledge exam. Leaving us only with our Step 2 Clinical Skills exam that we have scheduled in June. Thankfully, we completed and passed our preliminary Step 2 CK exam (NBME CCSE) in February.

Due to the circumstances, our Step 2 CK that was scheduled for April 1st was postponed and our preliminary clinical skills exam that was scheduled for April 4th is now set to be taken online.

We were planning to be back in the hospital resuming electives in April. At this time, we are unsure whether these electives will be taking place or not, but we do not have the highest hopes that they will. Unfortunately, this elective was an audition rotation for Denzel. A rotation he picked, in the specialty he is interested in pursuing, at a hospital he would be interested in attending residency at.

For now, medical students have been attending rotations in an alternative online format. We suspect if April rotations are cancelled, this would be the option offered to us.

At this moment, we are unsure how these “set-backs” will affect our residency application timeline. We have both felt an array of emotions: fear, sadness, defeat, worry, etc. However, we know we are not alone and that all medical students, whether from Caribbean schools or American schools, are experiencing the same challenges we are.

With plans being uprooted, I wanted to share how Denzel and I are coping and utilizing this time.

1) Continuing with workouts- home edition.

Our goal has been to get at least 60 minutes of exercise and 30-60 minutes of yoga per day. We usually do yoga at night with candles and the fire place lit to maximize relaxation.

Check out our favorites and some other FREE options below:

  • Les Mills On Demand: get a 14 day free trial. We love Body Combat, Body Pump, Body Step (check out this affordable step you can purchase to do these workouts), and GRIT. Body Flow is the yoga we do daily!
  • Orangetheory at home workouts on YouTube: these are about 30 minutes of cardio and “weight” training. If you have no weights, they give some ideas for household items you can use to create some resistance. Check out Walmart if you want to purchase some affordable dumbbells for home.
  • Beachbody On Demand: get a free 14 day trial. There is 100’s of workout options here!
  • Down Dog: this is a yoga and Pilates app that you can download on your phone or iPad. This app is free until May1st for everyone and until July 1 for K-12 students, teachers and healthcare providers.
  • Core Power Yoga: they are offering free select online classes during the stay at home order.
  • 2244 Hot Yoga: they are posting free 60-90 minute yoga workouts which you can do with them Live on their Facebook or just do after they post.
  • Whitney Simmons: she is posting free 30 minute at home, no weight workouts almost daily.
  • Dance with Dre: if you are feeling like dancing, Dre has several hour-long hip-hop dance workouts and even does live classes every now and then.
  • LIVELOVEPARTY.TV: this YouTube channel has hundreds of Zumba videos and you can just play them for however long you feel like exercising
  • Snap Fitness: 90 days free online workouts

2) Spending time outdoors hiking.

Another way we have been getting some activity in is spending time outdoors walking on local trails. Parks are still open in Michigan, so we try to do this at least 1-2 times a week. We are even planning on getting bikes this week to turn our walks into bike rides!

Use this link to find some trails near you!

3) Reading for leisure and playing board games.

Thanks to my mom, I had a few books I was meaning to read whenever I had some time. One down, four to go!

Denzel and I expanded our board game repertoire and we have been trying new games every now and again. I think he has also enjoyed having virtual video game meet-ups with his friends back in Texas (pretty sure this was a thing they did before quarantine lol).

4) Altering our study schedule.

This was a big one. Two weeks before we were supposed to take Step 2 CK we got the news that it would be postponed. The earliest date available as of now to take it is May 4th. We had to decide at that time whether we would continue with our rigorous 12-hour study days for another 6 weeks or slow down with plans to restart 4 weeks out.

A lot of people commented “at least you have more time to study”, but if you have studied for a board exam before, you know that sometimes you do not need more time to study (maybe a few days or a couple weeks at most, but certainly not an extra 6 weeks). When you have a date set for an exam, you work to prepare in a way that you are at the peak of your knowledge around test day. You also schedule how and when to use your resources (thousands of practice questions and about 5 practice exams). Plus, you want to do all of this while combating burnout!

With a mere 800 UWorld questions and 2 practice tests left to prepare for our exam, we decided to slow down on Step 2 CK studying until we had a better idea of what would be happening in April.

We did decide to increase the rigor of our Step 2 CS studies in preparation for our online Kaplan CS practice exam (hopefully April 4th). We put all the cases from First Aid for Step 2 CS on index cards and we randomly select one to practice in its entirety- timed and with a patient note.  We then review it together and talk about what we missed or did well. Since our exam is going to be online, we are spending this week practicing in a completely verbal format, which includes verbalizing the physical exams.

The plan is to recreate a month-long study schedule focused on Step 2 CK again for April with hopes of taking our exam on May 4th.

5) Cleaning our home.

I created a list of cleaning tasks that I haven’t had time to complete in our home that I have slowly checked off including scrubbing the floor boards and organizing closets. I find cleaning to be relaxing and often clean when I feel stressed!

6) Trying new recipes.

With limited protein options at the store, we have been experimenting with different recipes. I had never cooked with shaved beef or beef short rib before- we tried Philly cheesesteaks (this was not for me, but Denzeli enjoyed them lol) and beef short rib tacos with homemade tortillas (inspired by a fellow med student). Denzel also tried his hand at baking cookies which turned out pretty darn good.

7) Researching and taking notes on residency programs. Working on our personal statement.

We decided to take some time to research residency programs that we want to apply to. Since we plan to couple match, we started creating a side-by-side chart with programs in close geographical areas. We are now looking into each program and taking notes on details that are important for us. Thinking about residency and looking into programs has also ignited some excitement for us during this time and reminds us of the end goal.

We have also made it a point to take notes here and there for our personal statement (another part of the residency application). Whenever we have conversations between us about residency, what we are looking for and hoping for in the future, and what we have been through thus far to meet these goals, ideas and thoughts come to mind that we write down in a word document. That way when we are ready to sit down and compose our personal statement, the words have come from months of thought.

8) Volunteering.

I think in general as a human being during this dark time, it is hard to stay at home and watch people suffer, patients and people who are actively working to fight this virus. Even more as a medical student in my final year, I feel so close to the fight, yet so terribly useless sitting at home. If you are feeling the pull to help out in these times, here are a few ideas:

  • Volunteer at your local food pantry or Meals on Wheels to help supply families in need with food. Meals in Wheels volunteers deliver meals to seniors. Many of these organizations are taking precautions to protect their volunteers including limiting exposure to others and providing protective gear.
  • Local hospitals are seeking donations of all kinds. This includes cloth face masks to cover their masks that they have to reuse. If you are able to sew, consider sewing face masks and donating to your local hospital. I hear Joann Fabrics is giving out supplies for free and when you bring the completed masks back they will donate them. If you want to sew some masks, but do not know where to donate them, please contact me and I will find a place for them!
  • I have seen some students call local hardware stores, tattoo parlors, salon and spas, etc. and asking them to donate any PPE they may have (gloves, masks, gowns, etc.) This is something you can do from home! See what our local hospital St Joes is in need of below:

If anyone has any other ideas on how to volunteer during this time, please let me know!

OF COURSE, STAYING AT HOME is the best thing you can do to help others right now. Staying at home is saving lives.

This is probably the most unexpected blog post I ever thought I would write. Is this pandemic more unexpected than a hurricane and school on a ferry? Not sure. I hope and pray that this will soon pass and that we will all come out on the other side as better humans. I hope we can remember the time every human being was subject to the same enemy. It didn’t pick a color, an age, a sexual orientation, a gender, a socioeconomic status. This pandemic is a struggle we will have all experienced. This crisis has brought about unity between people of all different creeds, who have radiated love and support for our healthcare providers and other essential workers.

For the time being, there is no use in overwhelming ourselves with the unknown. For me, it helps to think of the right now. Right now, we can stay home and we can continue to prepare to be doctors. We can reach out to the people we love and care about who are risking their lives fighting this virus everyday- our heros and our role models.

Take a look at how amazing people are:

 

 

 

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