Young docs in Covid fight stay afloat in the deep end
When the national capital was reeling from the fourth wave of the Covid-19 pandemic, 22-year-old Dr Shefali Manchanda had just started her internship, immediately after completing her MBBS, at the Covid designated Smt Sucheta Kriplani Hospital near Connaught Place.
On May 1, her first day at the hospital, she witnessed three people succumbing to the deadly virus within a few hours.
“I remember that I called my mother and cried a lot that night. Not just deaths, but over the days, I also had to turn away people who were begging and crying for help because there was a shortage of beds and oxygen. The initial few days were really tough, but now things are getting better,” said Manchanda, who hails from Sonepat, and completed her MBBS from Delhi’s Lady Hardinge College.
Hundreds of young doctors such as Manchanda, who are pursuing their last year of MBBS or mandatory internship year have been roped in at Covid hospitals across the city in the last two weeks to help in the fight against the pandemic. Their careers have begun with rounds of Covid wards and ICUs -- from monitoring oxygen levels to checking pulse rates, and doing all the paperwork, including issuing death certificates.
Dr Noor Dhaliwal (23), who recently completed her MBBS from Maulana Azad Medical College recently, is currently interning at the Lok Nayak Hospital -- the biggest Covid center of the Capital. She had joined the hospital on April 20, and within a few days of starting work, she said she was witness to several “heathreaking events”.
“It’s so heartbreaking to see some really young patients who were just a few years older than me struggling and succumbing to the virus. We had to do a lot of paperwork and also prepared some death certificates. I can never forget an instance when, within five minutes of someone passing away, the bed was occupied by another patient,” she said. “It makes me really respect my seniors who continue their work despite being enveloped by sadness,” said Dhaliwal, who is from Chandigarh.
For Dr Diksha Malhotra (22), an intern doctor with Kalawati Saran Children’s Hospital since May 1, work has been even more challenging because she is in charge of looking after Covid-19 positive babies, many of whom are on ventilator.
“It gets difficult at times but that is why we chose this,” she said. Malhotra, from Uttar Pradesh’s Saharanpur, who did her MBBS at Lady Hardinge College.
Several young doctors said witnessing deaths is always difficult. “A few days ago, a colleague of mine went to check the oxygen saturation of a patient early in the morning. She found that the saturation was zero and the pulse was not palpable. She uncovered the patient’s face and he was found to be dead. It’s a shock for her. Most of us are in our early 20s and we are yet to become used to it,” said Dr Reyan Najmi (25), who joined as an intern doctor at Hamdard Institute of Medical Sciences & Research after completing MBBS from a college in the same institute.
Najmi, who is from Ranchi, said that there was fear and apprehension among family members of most of the young doctors.
“The fear of parents sending their children for Covid duty in hospitals is akin to how movies portray the pain of parents of soldiers in the front lines of war. But my parents understand now and they are proud of me,” he added.
Dr Kartik Yadav (23) said he was assigned internship at Lok Nayak hospital even before his final exam results were officially declared. “Many interns are now being assigned straightway into the ‘red zone’, where they get intense training. It is difficult but we are managing it. You have to be prepared for the worst in this profession,” he said.
Meanwhile, several young doctors expressed apprehensions over the possible long-term impact of the pandemic on their careers.
Dr Chetna Dengri (24), who completed her MBBS from UCMS and joined as intern at GTB hospital, said, “When we start our internship after MBBS, we work for one month in every department to learn the basics... It’s the only time when we actually get hands-on experience. But there have been no such opportunities for us and our junior batch since we all are engaged in Covid-related work.”
Medical college professors said it was hard for these young doctors. “Unlike previous years, these students are not getting a chance to get the experience of working in different departments, which is required during internship and before deciding what they want to do in masters… Once things get better, we will have to work closely with these students,” said Manish Narang, professor of pediatrics at UCMS.
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