Medical Students Return to Rotorua Hospital
22/05/2020 10:15:08 a.m.

Rotorua Hospital seems a lot busier under Level 2 and it’s not just more patients returning through the doors.

Most medical students are now back on the wards and continuing with their practical studies.

At the start of lockdown all fourth and fifth year medical students were requested to return home to continue learning online – 19 students in all, while 14 sixth-year students remained on-site.

All 20 student nurses were also removed from placement as they didn’t fall under the “essential worker” category.

Student nurses returned back on May 11, fourth year students on May 18 and the fifth years are due for their rotations in obstetrics/gynaecology or paediatrics next month.

“I think the fourth years are delighted to be back,” says Dr Nic Crook, academic co-ordinator at Rotorua Hospital.

“Everyone who has been in isolation has been stuck talking with the same people over and over again. I’ve been running Zoom tutorials all the way through and had 100 per cent attendance, but I think they’re all Zoomed out now.”

Most of the students stayed in their student accommodation in Rotorua, he says, and the University of Auckland set them plenty of work.

Fourth year is when students get to put their knowledge into practice with patients in real-life situations.

“It’s not the same as receiving teaching at the bedside of real patients but I think it’s served a purpose to keep their mind stimulated.

“With them coming back there are still difficulties with fully integrating as they would have been pre-Covid – there are patient groups [the university has] limited their access to.”

Under the current situation students are not able to work with any patient who may be at risk of having COVID-19. This means any patient with respiratory concerns must be cleared of having the virus before students can work with them.

Aside from that aspect, Dr Crook says staff are glad to have all students back on site.

“The atmosphere has been very good getting them back, all my colleagues seem to be welcoming and excited to have them back here.

“Having students around is a positive thing for all medical staff because they ask questions that make you think back to the basis of your knowledge.”

The final year students were able to stay on campus through a Ministry of Health agreement so they can enter the workforce at the end of the year.

Sixth year medical student Izzy Hawkins says other than the restrictions on some patients working in the hospital was “pretty similar” to before lockdown.

“We always knew who we could see and where we could help out,” she says.

“Even though there were fewer patients there were fewer students too so we probably had more opportunities as a result depending on where you were.”

She finished up in the Children’s Unit at the start of lockdown before moving to Psychiatry and is now in General Surgery.

“This has made all of us a lot more aware of how a hospital functions and what goes on behind the scenes. We didn’t really understand the structures or how many people were involved but seeing things in action and how quickly things changed was reassuring.

“I felt like we were really looked after and supported, and as a result we didn’t notice much of a change. Four weeks with just flatmates would have been really hard so it as nice to come in to the hospital and continue with a normal routine.”


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