Uneasiness about labs, a new way of experiencing clinicals and the shifting of Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) dates are some issues nursing and pre-med students face as USC moves online for the semester.
Michael Keller, a third-year exercise science student, shadowed at the pediatric intensive care unit at Prisma Richland, where he would follow attending physicians and look at how they worked in a hospital environment and cared for patients.
Keller said he managed to work a few weeks before classes went online. When the coronavirus went into full swing, he was given the choice to continue at Prisma or leave.
"With the switch to online classes, my original thought was, 'Oh, this is gonna be great. I can get a lot more shadowing in because I don't have to go to all of my classes, I can just watch the lectures at my convenience,'" Keller said. "But then, thinking more about it, the only places I would really be able to shadow would be in a hospital in the ER, and that's maybe not the best place to be right now."
Keller decided to stop shadowing at the hospital because of his concern for his family, but this means he is missing out on additional shadowing, of which he said medical schools like to see "two to 300" hours.
Claire Burgess, a fourth-year biology student, said her physics lab has caused her "the most problems so far.” Burgess said she did not hear anything about her lab until March 24, when she was informed she had late assignments.
She said she will also have to conduct labs and write up lab reports by herself now, though her lab was usually group-based.
“That class is mainly based on group work, and so, now we've been told we can't work in groups; we have to do everything solo. So, for that class, specifically, the workload has been increased by a lot,” Burgess said.
Keller is taking an organic chemistry lab and said the expectations for work regarding the lab and the content of the work to be done have not been effectively communicated.
“There have been some teachers who haven't really communicated well what their plan is," Keller said. "Every teacher seems to have a different standard for what they expect from the online classes.”
He said his overall online class experience has varied from professor to professor.
“It's been helpful when they've explained their general comfort level with technology, so the students kind of know what they're getting themselves into,” Keller said.
Another worry for some pre-med students has been the MCAT. The MCAT has set testing dates throughout the year, but due to the coronavirus, testing dates through May 21 have been canceled.
Burgess was supposed to take her MCAT March 27, but the test was canceled.
“I think for a lot of pre-med students, there's a little bit of anxiety about — whether [medical] schools, if they're applying next year, will adjust their application cycle for people who weren't able to take the test,” Burgess said.
Eileen Korpita is the director for pre-professional advising at USC. Korpita said Pearson and the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), the groups who distribute and create the MCAT respectively, are working to accommodate students.
“Students have a flexible rescheduling opportunity where MCAT is going to try and work with them to reschedule,” Korpita said.
According to the AAMC website, information about additional testing dates will be provided on April 17.
For nursing students, clinicals are going online in an almost video-game-like state with standardized actors playing out a situation, according to Alicia Ribar, interim associate dean for academics for the College of Nursing.
In the online clinical, students will have an interactive program with a patient where they will have to treat problems such as blood loss.
“Whether they're doing that with a live patient or doing that through a simulated patient experience, the critical thinking behind that is exactly the same,” Ribar said.