Life of a Medical Student During a Pandemic


The penultimate instalment to this series is from Amerikos Argyriou, our President and current 5th year medical student, sharing his views on 4th year during the pandemic.

At times, opportunities for learning on the ward seemed as hard to find as water in a desert. We were (somehow) shown how to perform our MSK examinations, an exam revolving around feeling and moving body parts, purely through zoom teaching.

By Amerikos Argyriou, 5th Year Medical Student

I was in the lab carrying out research as part of my intercalation when the pandemic erupted and the University closed its doors. Fast forward 6 months and I was beginning my 4th year of medical school with not much having changed for the better, pandemic-wise, except for that brief time in August 2020 when the Government decided that Covid didn’t exist. The course, placements and structure to the year remained largely unchanged, with the word “virtual” now simply placed in front of everything. Virtual inductions, virtual clinics, virtual teaching, virtual signoffs, virtual progress tests and virtual OSCEs… We all studied the background of everyone’s room to the last detail, and the more interesting thing in some sessions was a change of scenery in one person’s zoom camera. Thankfully for all our sakes, the OSCEs being virtual never came to fruition and we got to sit a F2F OSCE in both semesters!

At times, opportunities for learning on the ward seemed as hard to find as water in a desert. We were (somehow) shown how to perform our MSK examinations, an exam revolving around feeling and moving body parts, purely through zoom teaching. Some blocks can be very small, especially under the pandemic, that you might not get any exposure in them at all. I advise everyone going into them to make a head-start the weekend before and take full advantage of all clinical opportunities. My ophthalmology block included a single clinic with 3 unsuspecting patients that I got to examine. Many of my peers weren’t so fortunate and had to isolate during one of their blocks, or even isolate through several blocks! Luckily with the new year, you won’t have to share in these experiences and can get more hands on during fourth year.

On a more positive note I believe some aspects of the pandemic changed student teaching for the better. Clinics and theaters all now took a single medical student in a room, rather than 2 at a time; something that often occurred in 3rd year. This was a great change as it allowed for a lot more interaction with the doctor in the room and with it a lot more learning. Year 4 is quite exciting compared to third year as you’re introduced to new specialties that make you question whether you had any medical training and experience at all when you go into them. It definitely gives you lots to think about when considering your future career as you see fields and jobs you had never been exposed to before! My one tip would be to go into every placement open-minded and truly give them all a test-drive as a potential career choice. 

Overall, I had some memorable times on my placements that I’m sure a lot of other 4th years would agree with. It’ll be a while before I forget how I helped deliver a baby on my Women’s Health placement, how I assisted in the fixation of an open fracture on my MSK placement, assessed (poorly) a schizophrenic patient with delusional symptoms who was sectioned during my Psychiatry placement or even how I (failed to) dodge bullets of urine  on the neonatal unit during my time in Paediatrics. My personal scare came a week before the OSCE when I started getting symptoms of what I thought might be COVID. Luckily my lateral flow and PCR tests were both negative, and I managed to sit the exams the week after so that I could make it home that summer and not stay in manchester to repeat the exam! 

To conclude, 4th Year is a great year with lots of new things coming your way, and pandemic or not, still proved to be a memorable year for all of us.