Baptism of Fire for Medical Students

About 340 UNIL medical students are currently working in health care facilities throughout French-speaking Switzerland. An update with the conductor of this mobilization, Alexander Jucht, 5th year delegate.

Alexander Jucht © DR

« In 30 minutes, I received 80 e-mails from students who wanted to get involved! » Alexander Jucht recalls. On March 13, this 5th year delegate launched a call for 15 people willing to get involved in the fight against Covid-19. The outpouring of solidarity will not stop. « Everyone wants to roll up their sleeves, including exchange students and members of other faculties! » In the face of such enthusiasm, Alexander Jucht and the other delegates quickly organized themselves to centralize the requests and, at the same time, to collect hospital needs. Since the beginning of April, this work has been carried out in collaboration with the Health Department of the canton de Vaud.

Covering the entire healthcare system

« We currently have 300 volunteers, 140 of whom are mobilized on the ground, mostly from grades 4 and 5. In addition to these, there are some 200 6th grade students, who are doing internships anyway, » explains the coordinator. The new recruits are integrated into the hospitals, but not only. Some of them also lend a hand in EMS, CMS, emergency rooms and private practices throughout French-speaking Switzerland. And even beyond, since some are active in Ticino. « We place them as close as possible to their homes in order to minimise the use of public transport, » reports Alexander Jucht.

In the beginning, students often took over the positions of assistant doctors thus freed up to help in intensive care, for example. Later, many of them were assigned to the triage centres set up in front of hospitals and now work hand in hand with nursing and civil protection students.

Those who cannot work in direct contact with the virus help at the CHUV day-care centre. The third-year students, with no clinical experience, deliver medicines or give support classes to high-school students.

Helping, yes, but with a clear framework

« All the volunteers have benefited from an accelerated training programme set up with the Medical School and have signed a formal employment contract. » However, for many, this event was a baptism of fire. « The first clinical experience is already heavy in itself… Obviously, under the current conditions, everything is tenfold! Fortunately, the feedback from the field is extremely positive, » says a delighted Alexander Jucht. This extraordinary situation is not only a big challenge, but also a great learning opportunity.