The medical educational field is facing a peculiar situation across the country. With the majority of the postgraduate medical students are engaged in the overwhelming Covid duties, they are not getting enough practical experience in their chosen fields.
India produces around 44,000 postgraduate medical students every year. Every postgraduate student no matter what their choice of specialisation is, end up doing Covid duty. This has been the situation for over 15 months now. The batch of postgraduates that passed out in 2019-20 was probably the last batch to have complete practical training during their terms. After that, every other batch is stuck with the Covid.
With elective surgeries almost stopped, operation theatres are not functional in most hospitals. However, compared to other specialisations, pulmonologists, radiologists, anaesthetists, intensive care specialists are the ones that are getting practical exposure according to their subjects. Though the cases are almost monotonous, they are getting the good practice of treating patients in any stressful conditions.
But the rest like neurology, nephrology, cardiology, OBG and such specialisations are seriously deprived of surgical knowledge.
Dr S Sachidananda, Vice-Chancellor, Rajiv Gandhi University of Health Sciences, Bengaluru, agrees with the plight of postgraduate medical students. There is almost nothing that anyone can do with the ongoing situation. More the practice, better for the candidates to perform career-wise.
As the health sector is something that’s directly involved with people’s lives, every ounce of knowledge impacts the health of society as a whole.
“Last year, we postponed the exams and facilitated around 2-3 months of continuous practical classes for students. Though that is not the compensation for their loss of practical knowledge all through the academic year, that’s the most we could do. Students will have to put in extra effort after completing their courses and practice well before handling independent cases. Though this is tough on them, there’s no other way,” says Dr S Sachidananada.
Even during the first wave of Covid, students of Bangalore Medical College and Research Institute staged a protest to pressurise the institution to open the OPDs and operation theatres outside the Covid hospitals. They said they will put in the double effort and do Covid duty and attend practical classes if both are separated. But that happened for a very short period and much later. Now, history has repeated and students are left in the lurch.
“Many of us have education loans to clear. Once the PG term ends, the EMIs begin. But we won’t be confident enough to start practice as there is a huge gap in practical knowledge. We will have to invest at least another year into this and opt to be free house surgeons and fill the gap. We understand the present situation, but we are helpless too,” says Dr Abhishek SS, who is doing the Master of Surgery in Mysore Medical College.
The situation looks grim now and the only ray of hope is when the infection rate subsides. Well, that would take a while and nothing except waiting can be done until then.