AFTER more than a year of distance learning, the University reopened its doors to medicine and health allied programs for the limited in-person classes in June. For some of these Thomasians, avoiding Covid-19 was not the only challenge that welcomed them back on campus. 

Fiona Cruz, a fourth-year physical therapy (PT) student who attended “Connectivity,” a six-week-long pre-internship and bridging program, said adjusting to the limited face-to-face training became a challenge after over a year of online learning.

Yung adjustment lang siguro, medyo nanibago [dahil] [face-to-face] na ulit. Nakakapagod kahit half day lang `yung pasok, compared nu’ng [face-to-face] na whole day tapos may exams, kaya mo pa pag uwi mag aral pero dito natutulog na lang ako pag uwi. Plus ‘yung fear ng Covid din since umuuwi ako sa bahay and may kapatid pa ko na minor so walang vaccine, need extra ingat and naka-quarantine din ako sa room ko buong [face-to-face] classes,” Cruz told the Varsitarian

PT interns were the second batch of students to return to campus for in-person classes on June 21, after students from the Faculty of Medicine and Surgery who started their medical clerkship on June 9.

Annex G of the CHEd and the Department of Health’s Joint Memorandum Circular (JMC) No. 2021-001 states that PT interns are required to complete a minimum of 480 hours of face-to-face clinical rotations in a clinical affiliation center.

Cruz also said that her experience was fun as physical interaction is crucial in their practice simulated assessments and exercises before their internship proper. 

Cruz attended the bridging program thrice a week from June 21 to July 28. 

According to Cruz, junior and senior PT students were required to undergo quarantine two weeks before the first day of classes. They were also required to take lab tests, flu shots, and negative swab tests three to four days before the first day of classes, and submit a medical clearance from their doctor as well as health insurance, to qualify for the limited face-to-face internship.

Cruz said full vaccination against Covid-19 was not required among the students due to the limited availability of shots at the time.

Cruz said that during face-to-face training, students underwent laboratory simulations such as PT examination, evaluation, treatment and management, and module assessments. These were designed to enhance their skills and address learning gaps caused by the lack of physical interactions amid the shift to online learning, she said.

Dianne Parado, a medical technology student who started her internship at the UST Central Lab last July 26, said entering buildings around the campus had become more time-consuming due to the required signing of health declaration forms for contact tracing. 

“[D]uring this pandemic, it’s not that easy to enter the building anymore. We were asked to download an app (Stay Safe PH) na we’re required to answer as well as the [Thomasian Online Medical Services and Support] for contact tracing. It’s a bit time-consuming especially during our first day back in UST,” Parado said. 

However, she sees this not as a challenge, but as a necessary move from the University especially during this pandemic, adding that administrators, faculty members and personnel were helpful in helping and assisting them with their concerns.

Fourth-year medical technology student Kenneth Von Areta, who resides in Batangas, said that he was initially nervous about commuting to Manila again, especially when Covid-19 cases were still rising in the area in July. He was excited to be able to apply the skills that were taught to them online.

He said the instructors and lab technicians were understanding toward the students’ performance and addressed their questions and concerns.

Naiintindihan nila na kahit di mo ma-perform nang maayos yung experiment ay okay lang since first time namin. Open [rin] sila sa questions if ever may gusto ka itanong. When it comes to operating the machines naman, i-de-demo muna nila then after noon, kami naman. Very clear yung rules and regulations [rin] nila,” he told the Varsitarian. 

Parado’s block was divided into six groups and each group became their own laboratory “bubble.” 

Signages were placed on the corridors within the central lab to direct students where to go. Students were assigned specific rooms on the upper floors during lunch breaks.

Medical technology students were required to attend the biohazard and safety seminar conducted by the Infection, Prevention and Control Committee (IPCC) of the UST Hospital, where they took a test to obtain their IPCC Certificate.

Parado said they were asked to submit their Covid-19 RT-PCR test results three to seven days prior to the start of their duties, as well as physical examination results, proof of vaccinations for tuberculosis or Bacillus Calmette–Guérin, hepatitis B, and tetanus. 

Health insurance, medical clearance, and parents’ consent were also required, Parado said.   

Medical technology students started their internship program last July 5, but it was postponed due to the implementation of quarantine restrictions in Metro Manila due to the Covid-19 Delta variant threat. 

Internship activities resumed with a reduced number of rotation days on Oct. 18 after being suspended on Aug. 2. 

The College of Nursing was also scheduled to start their limited face-to-face Related Learning Experience on Aug. 9 but it was also postponed due to the threat of the Delta variant. 

Ready for more

In Parado’s opinion, the University will be ready to accommodate more students for limited face-to-face classes provided that students and faculty members are fully vaccinated. 

“I think with policies and protocols in terms of health declaration, social distancing and whatnot, okay siya. Nu’ng nag-face-to-face kami, I feel like nasunod talaga siya ng students and faculty members, like sa lab, one student per table, everybody wears complete PPE, and when performing lab procedures, we do it one at a time,” she said.  

She hopes the University will accommodate more medicine and health allied students to undergo limited face-to-face learning in the future since most of the students were already fully vaccinated.

“[W]ell-prepared naman ang college for protocols to follow prior to [the] start [of the internship]. Sayang rin kasi yung opportunity na matutuhan `yung skills in preparation narin for the students na magiging professionals soon,” she added.

Areta suggested having more days of clinical rotation for the next batch of interns next term. 

Sana ma-maximize next sem[ester] ‘yung time for internship. With regards to the protocols, […] very strict naman `yung pag-implement nila and very effective. [H]opefully, mas lalo pang bumaba `yung cases ng Covid para mas effective lalo `yung practice ng mga interns sa lab and para ma-maximize,” he said.

Cruz said her experience was fun not only because she was able to see her classmates in person, but also because physical interaction during simulated assessments was helpful to her in learning more about her course. Jamilah B. Angco and Charm Ryanne Magpali


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