• Jacob Maxwell

Crisis without Creativity: How to Create Timid Professionals

Twenty-two months in. The same old toxic cocktail of disease, politics, and false hope has landed my class and I back in a familiar state of uncertainty and frustration.

After years of the hazy and anxious state known as 'applying,' being accepted into a well known professional medical program gave many of us a new and refreshing boost to our self confidence. Although our first semester was primarily digital and extremely fatiguing, I think the optimists among us still felt we were getting what we needed from the sparse hands-on activities.

Now, yet again, due to 'unprecedented' circumstances, we've been informed that tough is tough, and our precious world-renowned program will be conducted solely from our screens for an arbitrary two weeks.

This 'two weeks' is the latest iteration of a history of false hope from decision makers across institutions. Optimism is key, but when our only plan B is the computer screen, and when two weeks becomes two months and finally two years, us golden young professionals can't help but lose confidence in our college, our abilities, and our future.

For the past two years, a deadly pandemic has been normal. In the scope of human history, pandemics are normal. As a young professional, I greatly respect the efforts of my educators in this terrible time, but I am continually disappointed by the endless cycle of dashed hopes and uncreative solutions in the face of our new normal.

I'll be the first to admit that this situation is a two-way street. I witnessed the disappointment in instructor's faces on the many occasions when attendance was pitiful for in-person activities last semester. The irony was palpable when peers would put off vital experience and later kick themselves for their performance on a test.

The presence of a deadly disease forces us to change. We cannot gather in large numbers indoors. We cannot speak to each other in close proximity. We cannot learn in the same ways we used to. We are incredibly lucky to have sophisticated devices that allow us to communicate at a distance, but continued reliance on the digital increasingly diverts our education from our future, and is physically unhealthy to boot.

It's time for educators and students to take the long view and get our right-side brains in gear. We can't take shifts in a teaching clinic indoors? Give us PPE and send us out with an ambulatory vet. We can't learn the vital skills of examination and palpation in a confined room? Tell us to bundle up and come out to the barnyard. But like I said, two way street. As students, if we expect a creative approach to pandemic education, we had better be showing up for our instructors every early morning and every Friday afternoon. We won't be treated like professionals if we don't act like them.

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