PRAGUE. Hundreds of medical students have volunteered to lend a hand in crowded Czech hospitals with coronavirus patients and are having a hard and fast learning of the trade, in a country that has one of the highest infection rates in the world.
Tereza Zalesakova, 22, is in charge of carrying out a blood glucose test on a patient with an artificial respirator, wearing a full protective suit, hidden behind a visor and wearing two pairs of rubber gloves.
He then moves to another room in the intensive care unit of the Prague General University Hospital to help feed an elderly man who cannot stop coughing and who breathes with difficulty.
“I started working here at the beginning of November because there was a shortage of auxiliary staff,” explains this medical student from Charles University in Prague.
“If the nurses don’t need me, the doctors often let me perform different medical interventions, which I could never have done as a student,” Tereza told AFP. “It is an invaluable experience,” emphasizes the young woman, who hopes to become a surgeon one day.
Czech hospitals are close to their maximum reception capacity since last autumn, when this EU member country, with a population of 10.7 million, experienced a spike in COVID-19 infections.
The Czech Health Ministry estimates the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases at more than 800,000 since the beginning of the epidemic in March, of which 12,800 have died.
This week, the country passed the threshold of 17,000 new infections, a record.
A lot of work
To meet the challenge, the government turned to students and the military to help hospitals or nursing homes.
“The students are doing a great job and we are very grateful,” says Petra Havrlikova, a nurse at the general university hospital.
“They help us to position the patients correctly, to do their morning toilets, to transmit the samples to the laboratories or to disinfect the rooms. I think many of them have seen a patient up close for the first time,” continues Havrlikova, interviewed by the AFP.
After a short break after spending three hours in the intensive care unit, 22-year-old medical student Karolina Nekolova prepares for a new tour by sharing a box of chocolate with the nurses.
The two students, Tereza and Karolina, are in the third level of six years of medical studies at Charles University, and currently both work part-time in the hospital’s inpatient service.
They have up to ten 12-hour shifts per month, each of which comprises six hours in intensive care and six hours spent on other duties.
“It is a wonderful experience for me. Firstly, I help people and secondly, I gain experience for my future life as a doctor,” says Karolina Nekolova, who is thinking of becoming a pediatrician.
The two students consider that mixing university and work is not a problem and they consider that they have the opportunity to learn “on the ground”, unlike other students forced to follow distance learning due to health restrictions.
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