If you’re in the process of applying for graduate school as a healthcare professional, your plans may be disrupted at the moment due to the COVID-19 virus spreading across the world. Classes may either be canceled, disrupted, or switched online, and shadowing and observation experiences are likely canceled. While many healthcare jobs are in higher demand than ever, other employees are currently being laid off. In this uncertain time, there is a lot students can do to help fight COVID-19, especially if you find yourself with extra time on your (frequently washed) hands:
1. Follow All Recommendations
Ensure you are following all the recommendations for preventing the spread of the COVID-19 virus by the CDC. As future healthcare professionals, following these guidelines can’t be stressed enough. Wash your hands, avoid touching your face, step up your cleaning, and maintain social distancing as best you can, especially if you are ill. These are things anyone can do, but it is important to model this behavior for others as a future healthcare professional.
Areas that are especially hard hit are looking for volunteers among both the medical and lay communities. Several states, including New York and California, have put out a call for volunteers, and there are websites such as this one that can connect you with ways to help. If you have a healthcare license or certificate, such as a degree in nursing or a certificate as an EMT, your skills may be especially needed at this time. Other needed positions include childcare workers to watch the children of essential workers, meal deliverers, and lab technicians. These spots are limited to healthy, low-risk individuals, and some are paid positions. Besides helping your community, you might be able to gain valuable experience in your future profession.
3. Donate Blood
There is a critical need for healthy, eligible donors during this time, and the Red Cross assures that donating blood is safe. As people increasingly stay home, blood drives are being canceled, but an influx of patients in most areas means blood is needed now more than ever. If you meet the requirements, consider giving blood, plasma, and/or platelets.
4. Donate to Food Banks and Shelters
Countless organizations need food, clothing, hygiene supplies, and/or financial support during this difficult time. Many people who are suddenly finding themselves home and with extra time on their hands are reorganizing their closets and pantries, so this could be a perfect time to donate clothing that no longer fits to those in need. Check with local organizations to see what is most needed, and to find out how you can safely donate these crucial items.
5. Donate PPE
If you have personal protective equipment such as N95 masks, surgical gowns, medical face shields, disinfectant wipes, hand sanitizer, infrared thermometers, and nitrile exam gloves, consider donating them to medical organizations in short supply. These materials are needed to keep essential medical staff safe while treating patients with the virus, and many organizations are running dangerously low. You can check in with your local hospital, or head to this website to learn how to best donate these critical supplies.
6. Make PPE
If you’re crafty, consider sewing face masks or gowns for medical organizations in need. Some hospitals with especially low supplies are accepting handmade PPE. Several websites have tutorials on how to make this equipment, and where to donate it once it is created.
7. Check on Family, Friends, and Neighbors
While it is important to keep social distancing, check in with your loved ones through the phone, Internet, or even from across the street. Make sure to especially keep an eye out for those at higher risk of illness and/or those who live alone. If you can safely offer to help, be sure to do so by offering to drop off supplies or provide social support.
This can be an opportune time to bolster your knowledge base for your future career. Sign up for online prerequisite courses, read books related to healthcare or personal development, and consider getting ahead on your studies. Now, more than ever, there are ways to continue learning online, as many online learning companies are offering free or discounted educational resources. This can be a great time to add to your resume and help ensure your future career.
As a future healthcare professional, you’re likely a stellar student, and likely have recent experience with math and science subjects. You can either volunteer or work as a tutor to help students virtually. As many children are seeing their school canceled and switched to online learning, some parents are finding themselves struggling to help their kids with these online lessons whether from not having adequate knowledge on the subject, trying to assist multiple children in the home, or learning to balance working from home themselves. Your recent expertise will be welcome in many households.
10. Take a Break
With burnout becoming increasingly common among healthcare professionals, you’ll want to do everything you can to avoid it. These steps are especially important during this stressful time before you even become a health professional. Whether this means taking a break from the news or social media, sometimes you need to take care of yourself first, before you can help others. If possible, find time to exercise, get enough sleep, and eat well. Find an outlet such as meditation, journaling, or online therapy sessions. Do what you can to help yourself, so that one day you will be in a position to help others.
Students, if you have the time and ability to help in the fight against COVID-19, we encourage you to do so. No matter how you choose to help out during this difficult time, stay healthy and safe.