COM students continue on with clinical rotations during the pandemic

Brittania McDonald, UNE PA class of 2006, chief of medicine at Speare Memorial Hospital with COM student Kara Button
Brittania McDonald, UNE PA class of 2006, chief of medicine at Speare Memorial Hospital with COM student Kara Button at alternative care site

While some clinical rotations for students have been shut down because of COVID-19, third-year College of Osteopathic Medicine students are carrying on at hospitals in New Hampshire.

“Things are fairly normal for me,” said Nicole Jenkins. “I am doing general assessments, getting patient histories, doing direct care management, decision making, considering discharges and follow ups, all of that.”

Jenkins is in the middle of a 12-week rotation in internal medicine at Speare Memorial Hospital in Plymouth, New Hampshire. She says the decision to continue on with rotations was left up to officials at the host hospital, who in turn left the final decision up to students.

“They said if we feel uncomfortable at any time, we have the right to suspend our rotation,” Jenkins explained. “Honestly, I was excited, because I do not want to delay my studies in any way. I look at it as a learning opportunity, to see how the system works when we are in crisis. This is what I signed on to do and I felt as a student I was really going to be missing out on an opportunity if I left.”

Other students continuing their rotations have taken on new roles because of the COVID-19 outbreak.

Seth Butler is helping to conduct a study on personal protective equipment (PPE) being used at Lakes Region General Hospital in Laconia, while Kara Button is helping to establish an alternative care site for Speare Memorial Hospital.

“The clinical portion of my pediatrics rotation was canceled, so I jumped on board and got really involved with this project,” she stated. “If we have to activate our alternative care site, I would be one of two people who would be working there, taking care of patients.”

Button says she also feels fortunate to be able to continue her education by doing hands-on work.

“What I'm doing right now is helpful, but if there's a point where my presence isn't helpful or that I am using PPE that would be better served by others, then I would not feel comfortable staying,” she said.

Having enough PPE is a concern at some health care facilities. Butler has been studying how much his site has been using during the pandemic.

“Technically I am in my obstetrics and gynecology rotation, but right now I am collecting data to see how much personal protective equipment we are using per patient being tested,” he said. “We are basing that on stock room numbers. How much restock is being done for the floor, to see how the numbers are changing.”

While he is not working directly with COVID-19 patients, Butler says it has been quite a learning experience to see how the hospital has responded to the pandemic.

“I want to be an emergency medicine doctor,” he stated. “I want to be there in the middle of things. So, I really wanted to see how the hospital and the emergency department cope with this, how they manage resources, and how they manage personnel.”

Butler and the other students are hoping to continue on to their next assignments, but they are unsure of what the future will hold.

Butler wants to move on to emergency medicine programs in Michigan and Pennsylvania, while Button is eyeing a rotation in a general surgery unit.

“We don't know what things will look like in three or four or five weeks,” she said. “So, for me, it's very much taking things day by day and week by week to determine what I am going to be doing.”

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Third year COM student Seth Butler
Third year COM student Seth Butler

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