Clerkship in the time of COVID

Ever since the announcement of COVID19 as a pandemic last year, every country had put in restrictions to minimize the spread of the disease- both on the international and national scale. In the Philippines, the first community quarantine was announced on March 12, 2020, effective on the midnight of March 15, 2020 to April 14, 2020 (1), which suspended offices and schools alike. With the disruption of face-to face classes due to prolonged lockdowns, schools had to find ways to cope.

However, online classes have been proven to have limitations, especially for those studying in medicine or health-allied courses (2). There was a necessity to open higher education institutions (HEIs) to allow limited face-to-face classes, 1) to enable the students to achieve specific learning outcomes that can only be done in specialized facilities and hospital settings and, 2) to help augment the lack of healthcare professionals (3).

The University of Santo Tomas (UST), along with five other schools, was among of the first schools that have been retrofitted to be safe spaces as it served as a vaccination site for the country’s first wave of vaccination (3). After following stringent health protocols, and approval, UST opened its face-to-face classes for clinical clerks on June 9, 2021 (4).

Of course, there were a number of things that were expected to be different when having your clerkship during a pandemic, as shared by our own Regent’s Scholarship Program recipients:

“Clerkship was definitely the one I'm looking forward to during medical school. It is by this time that we, clerks, will feel like we are actual doctors, taking care of an actual patient. However, because of this pandemic, all of these expectations have changed. Instead of having real patients, we have cases made for a specific condition, then we report the case as a group. Most of our activities were done this way, and somehow, our history taking and physical exam skills were not well developed. Even though our professors had done their best to make this clerkship the best as it could be, there are still some areas that face- to- face clerkship cannot replace.”  Carmela Niña Tormo, Class of ‘21

This is very different because we were not able to face actual patients, which we are all looking forward to, come our 4th year of Medicine. Since the pandemic started, we resorted to online means of learning, which is undeniably far less ideal than what we should have accomplished if we had face- to- face clerkship. However, given the situation, online clerkship is the best way to contribute in helping to lessen the number of cases in the country and continue learning despite the limitations brought about by the pandemic.” Cloie Anne Rabinetas, Class of ‘21

Yet, despite all the challenges they faced during this time, our graduates persevered. Through hardships, doubts and anxieties, many have pushed through with the help and support of their family, friends, fellow students and even professors, as they remained enthusiastic all through-out.

Cloie, like many of her fellow graduates, her experience doing clerkship in a pandemic made her realize several things, but most importantly the need for medical professionals- especially doctors, to rise above what seems to be insurmountable circumstances.


Photos by Carmela Tormo


(1) Timeline: Covid-19 in the Philippines - SUNSTAR