Berks County Medical Society Medical Record Summer 2020 - 29

Coronavirus Chronicles: Berks Responds

4TH YEAR MEDICAL STUDENT
by 4th Year Medical Student
Caitlin Bevvino-Ring
Geisinger Commonwealth School of Medicine

I

n mid-February-just weeks before the coronavirus pandemic
became a global crisis, I was completing one of my final
rotations as a medical student in the Intensive Care Unit. In
many ways, ICU is a fitting capstone to medical education. It
reminds us of the wonders of modern medicine and how it can
be possible to bring patients back from the verge of death with
incredible machines, potent medications, and intensely watchful
care teams. It's an amazing place to be as a medical student, and
a fearsome place to be as a patient. At that point-as February
was coming to a close, our communities were still untouched by
COVID-19. But as the news spread of the novel virus arriving on
American soil, I remember thinking to myself "these ICUs are at
capacity. They can't possibly get any fuller." I couldn't have known
then that my ICU rotation was the last time I would set foot in a
hospital as a medical student.
Over the next six weeks, I and the roughly 20,000 other
4th year medical students across the nation watched in slow
motion as the milestone rituals of our medical school career were
cancelled. First Match Day, then our final clinical experiences, then
graduation. As the coronavirus death toll continued to rise and
leaving home started to feel treacherous, we were informed that we
could graduate early, be granted provisional medical licenses, and
join the ranks of those "fighting COVID-19 on the front lines." At
first I felt numb-an absence of feeling that characterizes the void
that remains when something is taken away and can never be given
back. Then I felt fear. Then anger. And finally, grief, where I still
reside.
Each day since, I have thought of the healthcare professionals
who are working in the ICUs and emergency departments. I
wonder what it is like to face uncertainty in every moment of the
day all while wrapped in suffocating PPE. I try to imagine myself as
a physician-as part of their ranks. But I still feel like a spectator-
someone whose professional identity was never conferred, just as I
never walked across the stage of my medical school graduation. If
there is any loss for us as medical students in this crisis, I think it
is that: despite the great efforts of our schools, families, and friends
to give us meaningful virtual celebrations, the commencement of
our lives as doctors was truncated. In some ways, it feels like we are
taking a collective step forward in to an abyss of uncertainty.
But of course, wherever there is loss there is also great beauty.
What this crisis has given me is something all medical students and
physicians likely crave more of: time. My cancelled rotations have
meant that for eight weeks, I've been at home with my young son,

my husband, and my mom. We take two walks a day, cook all our
meals, and have started planting a garden. I get eight hours of sleep
at night and I exercise on the days that I want to instead of fitting
all of those things in between rotations, studying, and babysitting
schedules. It has been a long, deeply nourishing, and much needed
exhale. The clinical space that I will enter in just a few weeks' time
as a Family Medicine intern will be inextricably changed. As I
walk with my son through the radiant spring mornings, I think of
my future patients and how I will meet them in this new, postcoronavirus world. I hope that as I help to ensure the safety of my
community with social distancing and robust personal protective
equipment, I also remember what is truly transformative about
medicine: presence, connection, and love. In such a time, it is truly
all we have.

"Hospice took
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heartlandhospice.com/Reading
© 2020 HCR Healthcare, LLC

Home is the most comfortable place
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contact us anytime, 24/7.

SUMMER 2020

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Berks County Medical Society Medical Record Summer 2020

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