Doctors in training during COVID-19 reflect on their experience during past few months

Updated: May. 25, 2021 at 9:43 PM CDT
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AMARILLO, Texas (KFDA) - As if becoming a doctor was not hard enough, those doing their training or residency in the past year had to quickly pick up new skills while also learning to deal with a never-before-seen virus.

Learning on the job is not unusual, in fact, that is what the residency period in a doctor’s career is for. But, for these doctors, COVID-19 brought a whole new meaning to the term.

“I wouldn’t think I would have to pioneer medicine or pioneer therapies for something of this magnitude,” said Dr. Jade Dharmarpandi, M.D., internal medicine resident at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center.

Dr. Dharmarpandi started her residency during Fall 2019, just months later we had our first case here.

“The night of our first case, to finally realize that a COVID was not just outside of Texas or outside of our city, it was in our hospital it was very daunting scary. We didn’t know much about the virus,” said Dr. Dharmarpandi.

She says after years of medical school, having to learn about the virus at the same time as those who are training her was unusual and challenging.

“We had to improvise you know in terms of getting our staff to do more shifts, more rotations. Especially in teaching, instead of doing some of the elective things we would be doing, we would come back and have to do more core rotations like the ICU,” said Dr. Dharmarpandi.

Lectures were cancelled for a while as faculty members were busier than ever.

“There is an expectation every year that incoming interns are relatively inexperienced so there is a huge learning curve that has to be climbed early on,” said said Dr. Tarek Shihab, M.D., internal medicine resident at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center “Unfortunately, a lot of education activities had to be postponed just cause of the workload and I think it does affect education but you know I think we have adapted and made it work overtime.”

Residents also had to quickly learn to communicate difficult updates to family members, a skill that usually takes time.

On top of that, it was often through the phone which was an added and unexpected challenge.

“We learn about ways to do it, ways to break bad news and things like that but we were never taught in this setting,” said Dr. Shihab

He says as the cases piled up, it just became harder.

“When that conversation is spread out once a week or so, you have time to dedicate time to the family. When you are dealing with it multiple times a day, it’s just you’re suddenly dealing with a scale, that it is tough to dedicate that much emotion to that many people,” said Dr. Shihab.

Both say although it was not how they thought it would go, they know their training cannot be matched by any other experience.

“The sheer amount of time spent treating patients is unmatched by any other time really in recent history. And I think that knowledge that experience is going to stick with everyone for a long time,” said Dr. Shihab

Dr. Dharmarpandi adds they couldn’t have done it without the faculty there to help and is humbled to have been able to help and do her part in fighting COVID-19.

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