Finding a New Normal as Students, Educators, and Parents

The first weeks following the closing of RVU’s campuses—the result of the coronavirus pandemic—were marked by a flurry of email updates, troubleshooting internet connections, the transition from hands-on learning environments to digital platforms, and, for some, setting up a new office or study space amidst the perpetual pandemonium of children and pets. Students and employees share their stories of how these changes have impacted them both professionally and personally.

RVUCOM Adapts to Remote Learning and Social Distancing

Though the recent social distancing guidelines have confined us to our homes, RVU students are coming together for virtual study sessions and fun activities. The SGA has begun hosting online games, trivia nights and volunteer opportunities, such as a mask-making initiative (the masks will be donated to veterans’ homes, long-term care facilities, and other places of need). “We are also in the process of putting in an online study hall,” said Paul Yang, OMS II, SGA President at RVU-SU.

At RVU-CO, the SGA is initiating an a letter-writing campaign: “We are [writing] to congratulate the Class of 2020 as part of their graduation celebration,” said Zoe Roth, OMS II, SGA President at RVU-CO. The campaign will be an elective opportunity for students and is currently ongoing. Finally, the SGA is bring ing students together for Zoom gatherings and encouraging clubs to host virtual events.

Dr. Linger hosts a Zoom Meeting with students.

Adjusting to a remote-learning environment has proven to be a challenging transition, especially from a social standpoint. “It has been hard for me to adjust from a social setting to a more isolated one,” said Nick Hora, OMS II. “I stay in touch with friends by using FaceTime and Zoom, which makes it much better.” As for exploring the digital tools available to medical students, SD Hora says now is the time to fully learn how to use them. “I feel like [RVU] has done an excellent job of transferring over to online material, and I commend them for a having a plan and constantly keeping us posted.”

“I miss the people of RVU! Teaching via Zoom is not my preferred curricular delivery method, but we are making it work. I am grateful for the opportunity to meet the animals and little humans that RVUers call family. I’m also grateful for less time driving in traffic, less air pollution, more frequent meditation, and more family time. These are welcome changes.”

– Rachel Linger, PhD, Associate Professor of Pharmacology

A Third-Year Student’s Perspective

For third- and fourth-year students, the transition to remote learning has been more difficult, due in part to the cancellation of the hands-on training they were receiving through externships and the upheaval of meticulously organized plans.

Kristin Lipe, OMS III, speaks to patients during her global outreach externship.

In the early months of this year, Kristin Lipe, OMS III, was busy checking off the necessary items to successfully transition into her fourth year of medical school: scheduling boards, applying to programs, scheduling audition rotations, nailing down electives, incorporating gap weeks, looking for housing, and buying plane tickets—all with the goal of landing her dream residency, something she and her fellow classmates have worked hard for over many years. “It has been overwhelming having everything canceled or pushed back,” said SD Lipe. “It has tested our patience and pliability.”

Even while months, if not years, of planning are upended, upperclassmen are determined to help however they can. They view volunteerism during this time as both a calling and a learning experience. By learning and helping, “we could be somewhat prepared in the event that this were to happen again in our lifetimes,” said SD Lipe. At the end of the day, she knows the Class of 2021 and all other students “will get through this hurdle the way we have already conquered life’s unique adversities—stronger, more malleable, and with more compassion.”

PA Program: Online Training and Volunteer Opportunities

As coronavirus cases increased worldwide and RVU made the decision to close both campuses, one of the first challenges for the PA program to overcome was that of transitioning a highly interactive, hands-on curriculum into an online learning format. Faculty and staff quickly implemented several creative solutions including virtual standardized patient encounters where faculty role-play the patient and utilizing breakout rooms to conduct small group learning in real time. Cathy Ruff, MS, PA-C, Director of the PA Program, holds a regular “Dialogue with the Director” to provide updates and check in with both classes.

For students who were scheduled to start clinical rotations, they are now completing online training sessions in Advanced Cardiovascular Life Support, Pediatric Advanced Life Support, and Basic Life Support. Second-year PA students are also supplementing their education with online learning opportunities after having been pulled from their clinical rotations.

Woody the dog working with owner Stephanie Bradford, PAS I.

Through it all, “students have been flexible and adaptable with the new demands and different learning formats,” said Cathy. “[They] have created group chats and shared documents and learning strategies to support one another in keeping track of what is due and by when.” Students have also stayed connected through fun games and happy hours online.

The pandemic has brought with it a series of adjustments across all aspects of life. Students, faculty, and staff are adjusting to being at home and finding time to study or work while juggling family needs and other responsibilities. Faculty and staff check in daily with one another to provide updates and implement new learning plans; students are supplementing their education through volunteer opportunities, as well. “From setting up screening facilities to making calls, the COVID-19 pandemic has only strengthened student’s resolve and passion to be involved with healthcare and help as many patients as possible.”

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