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Osmosis Scholarship Winners Share Advice on How to Adapt to COVID-19 as a Health Professions Student

Six future leaders in healthcare share advice on how to forge ahead with your studies even when your curriculum has been disrupted by the pandemic.

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This summer, Osmosis is hosting the second round of the Osmosis Health Education Impact Scholarship. US-based students working towards a degree in the health professions can apply for one of six scholarships: one $5,000 prize, and five $1,000 prizes. Applicants are encouraged to submit a video sharing how they plan to embody one of the six Osmosis values (Start With the Heart, Spread Joy, Open Your Arms, Reach Further, Have Each Others’ Backs, Imagine More) in their clinical practice.

To raise awareness about this scholarship opportunity, we interviewed the six winners of our inaugural round of applications, asking them questions about their careers in the health professions. In this blog post, we’ve collected their answers to one question:

How has COVID-19 impacted your studies, and what advice do you have for students trying to stay on track with their studies during this time?


Tyler Thorne: Grand Prize Winner, Medical student at the John A. Burns School of Medicine, University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa

“At the onset of COVID-19, Hawai’i enacted a mandatory quarantine. The timing of this lined up with our school’s “dedicated study time” for USMLE® Step 1, so fortunately it didn’t impact my clinical rotations significantly. However, studying for Step 1 or probably anything is difficult during quarantine. The two years prior I studied almost exclusively at school and really designated my time there for studying. For the first few days of quarantine I struggled to focus at home: it was easy to get distracted and start scrolling through Instagram or check the fridge for a third time. I knew I needed to make a change so I created a study schedule/daily to-do list, set up an isolated work-space, and physically distanced myself from my phone. Having a daily sense of purpose and being separated from distractions helped me increase the quality of my studying and the amount of material I could review. 

Another struggle with quarantine was the lack of physical activity; I usually go to the gym several times a week, so the gym closures were driving me a little insane. I set up a routine of going for a walk or run as soon as I woke up and then doing body weight exercises in the afternoon as a study break. My focus and overall well-being really improved as this really helped break down the monotony of doing hundreds of flashcards or multiple question blocks. 

Finally, if the social isolation is getting to you, get some face-time with family or friends, whether that’s online or at a two-meter distance outside. I did not do this, but I know some friends who set up group study sessions online.”

First-place video submission from Grand Prize Winner Tyler Thorne.

Nat Jones: Runner-up Prize Winner, Medical student at University of South Florida Morsani College of Medicine

“As a second-year medical student I am currently in the midst of preparing for my USMLE® Step 1 exam, which is essentially the final checkpoint before I enter the rotations of third year. While I am trying to remain focused on the end goal of my upcoming entrance into the wards of Tampa’s hospitals, I find myself worrying constantly about the COVID-19 chaos around me. I was one of the unlucky students who had their exam date cancelled due to COVID-19 social distancing regulations at my testing site, which resulted in a huge last-minute scramble for a new date and a massive change in my study schedule. It was hard for a while to focus on anything other than COVID-19, let alone my rigorous Step 1 schedule. However, I am settling into my new normal now—studying at home in my little study corner, taking my mid-day stretch break, and FaceTiming my classmates for social hour on the weekends. 

For my fellow productivity-minded students who are also struggling to settle into a new routine, I recommend scheduling out three NON-SCHOOL related tasks that you would like to accomplish each day (I keep a hand-written “to-do” list of things I want to bake, exercise videos I want to watch, chores I need to do, etc). This has really helped me take my mind off of studying for a bit and value the non-school related aspects of my days more. If you are used to volunteering on a regular basis, ask around in your community for testing sites that might need phone volunteers or health worker support groups that secure groceries/childcare for your local health workers. I am fortunate to have been able to channel my desire to help out into assembling 3D-printed COVID-19 swabs through my university, and I can say that being able to give back just a little bit makes me feel so much lighter. If you find that you are too burdened with your worries and that this productivity-minded advice seems completely unattainable, then listen to your body and give it the break it deserves. 

These are tough times and if you need a break, by all means allow yourself to breathe, relax, and take things one day at a time. After a few days of listening, you might find inspiration for your new normal.”

Runner-up video submission from Winner Nat Jones.

Dilan Shah: Runner-up Prize Winner, Medical student at Texas Christian University & University of North Texas Health Science Center School of Medicine in Fort Worth, Texas

“Since COVID-19 hit, we have fully transitioned into virtual education. One of the reasons I chose the TCU and UNTHSC School of Medicine was because of how uniquely innovative the curriculum is. That spirit of excellence through creativity is well reflected by how the faculty and administration have handled this transition. We have embraced a telemedicine model for clinical skills training, and have been provided with subscriptions to 3D software to mimic our cadaveric education. Nevertheless, I am looking forward to the day that I can again use my stethoscope on a patient and examine real anatomical structures. 

My advice for my peers who are training in this COVID-19 reality is to embrace the change and find ways to take care of your mental health during this challenging time. The state of our society feels heavy right now, and while there is a lot we cannot control, we can learn to control our internal state. Use meditation apps, do some home yoga, go for walks, call your friends and family, or whatever form of self-care you find centering. Above all, do not fear embracing the need for professional mental health services. The best thing we can do for our future patients right now is to take care of ourselves so that we can be strong healthcare leaders when our time comes.”

Runner-up video submission from Winner Dilan Shah.

Grace Benmhend: Runner-up Prize Winner, Medical student at University of South Florida Morsani College of Medicine

“COVID-19 has not affected my studies too terribly, as I was supposed to be in my Step quarantine’ during this time anyways. I planned on studying at home for about 7 weeks straight anyways, so COVID-19 primarily only affected my studies by pushing my USMLE® Step 1 exam time back. My exam got postponed a month and then cancelled and moved to September and then moved back to June again, so it was occasionally stressful trying to study for an exam that I wasn’t certain when I would be taking. 

My advice during this time would be to remind yourself each day that you do not have control in this situation and to not let anxiety and stress overcome you. There are so many forces that are bigger than ourselves and worrying about trying to control them will lead to an unhappy existence. Focus on doing the best you can given the circumstances and taking control of what you can. In this time, I had to realize I didn’t have control over when the testing centers would open and when my exact date would be, but I did have control over how much I made myself study, focusing on living a healthy lifestyle during the quarantine, and ensuring I took time for myself to relax and be outdoors. When I was able to manage the factors in my life that I could and relinquish the stress of trying to control what I could not, I felt so much happier and I highly advise others to try to do the same.”

Runner-up video submission from Winner Grace Benhmhend.

Shqiponja Kuka: Runner-up Prize Winner, PA student at Yale University’s Online PA Program

“COVID-19 has significantly impacted my clinical year in that it has changed the clinical setting, and it has changed how medicine is practiced to an extent. My advice is to make the most out of the situation and to use it as an opportunity to learn to become flexible as a provider in order to meet your patient’s needs. Although it can be discouraging at times, it is important to realize how much there is to learn from a profoundly impactful situation such as this global pandemic.”

Runner-up video submission from Winner Shqiponja Kuka.

Viktoriya Kislyak: Runner-up Prize Winner, Family Nurse Practitioner student at Walsh University

“The pandemic has affected my studies in a very interesting way. Firstly, most of my classes were already online so there was no transitioning once the quarantine and stay-at-home order was placed. However, the other half of my education, the clinical aspect, was cancelled until further notice at the end of my spring semester and ongoing to the summer semester. Luckily for me, I had completed more than 90% of my rotation for Spring before we were no longer allowed to attend. 

My university was very flexible and willing to work with students to get their hours of clinical experience in other ways so that we would not fall behind, and if this is something you are facing as a student I would get in touch with faculty as to how you can stay on track for graduation. Closing of clinical sites was a drastic measure but also a needed measure. It was an unavoidable circumstance as it was the direct recommendations from the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN). 

If you are a student like me, who is currently facing a pause on the clinical aspect of your education, I think the most important thing you can really do is just continue to learn from the course work and just be patient about the clinical aspect. Everything will get done in due time, it is just a matter of waiting it out.”

Runner-up video submission from Winner Viktoriya Kislyak.

Applications for the Osmosis Health Education Impact Scholarship have been extended to August 31, 2020. As part of the application process, Osmosis is asking students to share a video explaining how you plan to embody one of the six Osmosis values in your clinical practice. You just might win one of six scholarships on offer: one $5,000 prize and five $1,000 scholarships are available. Apply today!

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