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International Medical Aid’s guide to effectively shadowing doctors during COVID-19

Both shadowing physicians and other medical practitioners provide many benefits for students. International Medical Aid’s internship programs intensify those benefits by exposing students to diverse healthcare delivery models and unique cultures. The benefits of shadowing include:

  • Exposure to clinical practices and real-world medical emergencies and common challenges
  • Knowledge of how physicians cope in a world of stress and responsibility
  • Discovery of whether a medical career is right for you
  • Earning one of the practical resume-builders necessary for getting accepted into medical schools
  • Learning how to deliver bad news and deal with difficult patients
  • Developing a strong sense of cultural competency

The most crucial benefit is clinical exposure because it provides patient and physician contact that can make or break your application to the best schools.

What Is Shadowing?

Shadowing is an important part of your training. Shadowing is the process of working closely with experienced medical staff throughout their busy days to observe patient interactions. Through this process, students learn tips and tricks about dealing with patients, enabling them to understand the real-world challenges of working long hours and bearing a great deal of responsibility.

Shadowing is highly recommended for those seeking a career as a doctor, surgeon, nurse, physician assistant and medical assistant. However, during the coronavirus pandemic, it’s critical to understand how to protect yourself while shadowing a doctor. At this point, you haven’t learned everything that skilled medical staff know, so it’s essential to learn immediately how to protect yourself from exposure to COVID-19.

International Medical Aid’s Enhanced Protocols for Dealing with COVID-19

The most important way to protect yourself is to recognise that you don’t relax your efforts after your work shift. The temptation to relax your efforts after work is strong, but COVID-19 places a greater burden on undergraduate and medical students than the rigorous requirements experienced by past generations.

International Medical Aid offers impressive opportunities for their interns to work in large teaching hospitals in sub-Saharan Africa, South America and the Caribbean. The organisation has significant experience in dealing with infectious diseases and safeguarding medical staff from accidental exposure.

Latest Protocols for Protecting Students

COVID-19 makes it challenging to learn while shadowing a medical professional, but working under those conditions can give your career prospects a boost. Advanced shadowing techniques include virtual shadowing, which capitalises on communications technology to provide you with a bird’s eye view of everything a doctor or nurse does.

You can work virtually with the person you’re shadowing, which eliminates any possibility of contamination. Still, it doesn’t provide the authentic clinical experience of working face to face with patients and medical staff. Many shadowing programs were suspended because of the risks of contracting the coronavirus; however, live internships are currently available to help pre-med and other pre-health students gain practical experience.

The following are some tips to mitigate risks when shadowing medical specialists in their daily jobs:

  • Pay Attention to Face Coverings
    Everyone involved in medical treatment wears a mask in public, and wearing a well-fitted mask is still the most effective way of preventing cross-contamination between patients and medical staff. The best protection is a medical-grade face covering and high-quality sanitiser to disinfect your hands frequently.
  • Practice Social Distancing
    Six feet is the standard distance recommended by coronavirus-fighting protocols, which is especially important in a medical community where many patients might be immunocompromised. Pay attention to sanitising surfaces that are frequently touched by hand, and change out the equipment and your personal protective equipment (PPE) as often as possible.
  • Wash Your Hands Frequently
    It’s easy to forget every surface you touch when treating or assisting in busy medical offices and clinics. It’s essential to follow the recommended procedure when washing and disinfecting your hands, not only for your own health but also for the health of patients and other medical personnel.
  • Carry Extra Pens and Pads
    Searching for a working pen or paper can easily frustrate you and lead to unsafe touching. That’s why it’s recommended that you carry extra sets of working pens and pads of paper. You don’t want to borrow and be forced to carry a used pen around all day.
  • Carry Extra Handkerchiefs
    Having a clean handkerchief makes it easy to open doors and medical cabinets without touching them by hand.

Moving Forward in East Africa

Internships, which were discontinued briefly by the COVID-19 threat in East Africa, are now fully operational. If you want to add a big plus to your resume, International Medical Aid’s Healthcare Internship Programs certainly fit the bill.

Fortunately, most experts and agencies forecast that all the summer 2021 internships will be fully staffed because all operations were resumed on August 1, 2020. Enhanced COVID-19 protocols have been adopted, and students have the opportunity of a lifetime to make a difference and learn from the experience while developing cultural humility that will stand them in great stead in their future careers.

An Open Message for Prospective Internship Candidates

International Medical Aid takes every possible precaution to ensure a safe and educational experience for interns. To that end, the organization supplies local guidance 24/7 when interns face challenges in communicating or understanding local customs.

Each internship begins with an orientation session about the local area, and physicians led orientation sessions about the medical facilities and safety guidelines for pre-medical and medical students. OSHA safety regulations are also thoroughly covered.

Expertise in Controlling Infectious Diseases

International Medical Aid maintains a 100 percent safety record, and that’s no fluke. The organisation has vast experience in treating and controlling disease outbreaks, so it’s uniquely qualified to meet the challenges of dealing with COVID-19 safety.

Safety and Security First

As an intern, you receive 24-hour emergency support services by highly trained personnel and security experts. The support staff can respond to any emergency or crisis you might experience living abroad. The Crisis Management Team consists of U.S. citizens who work with the local staff to handle any emergency.

Crisis Management Plans

The Crisis Management Team is ready for any eventuality, including shifting political attitudes and natural disasters. The team has a crisis management plan for any scenario. Major international security firms have been engaged to assist at a moment’s notice if evacuation becomes necessary. Lesser emergencies also have region-specific emergency plans to protect interns and medical staff.

Proactive Monitoring of World and Local News

The Crisis Management Team carefully monitors the news for potential safety and security risks relevant to all IMA facilities. If a concern develops, the team will consult with government experts and private sources to decide whether the risk warrants the mobilisation of emergency plans.

Details of the Program and Hospital Orientations

The orientation program covers risks, security protocols and safety guidelines when dealing with infectious disease. All interns and students are required to attend, and the orientation schedule includes the dangers of living in a foreign city and country.

Each student learns the finer details about avoiding or mitigating risks — whether those risks involve living in the area or protecting yourself from exposure to disease. Written information is provided to which the interns can refer at a later time.

The in-country network of support includes contact information for the police, governmental authorities, local U.S. Embassy offices and consulates. You’ll also be provided with maps, local emergency contact information and specific instructions on dealing with medical, security and safety issues.

Residences for Interns and Students

All interns receive dormitory rooms that are located in gated communities for security purposes. Accommodations include hot water, modern showers and bottled drinking water. On-site housekeepers help with regular cleaning and can assist you in doing your laundry. Rigorous cleaning protocols for community areas include disinfecting products that kill the coronavirus and other known viruses.

Travel, Medical and Evacuation Insurance

Each intern receives travel, medical and evacuation insurance, which covers the intern for up to $1,000,000 with a $500 deductible. The insurance policy can be used anywhere the intern travels (except their home country).

Many of the eligible medical expenses don’t have a deductible and no out-of-pocket limits. However, pre-existing conditions are not covered unless the onset of a pre-existing condition requires an emergency medical evacuation. In that case, the policy covers up to $25,000 of the expenses.

Cell Phone and Internet Use

Each intern is supplied with essential data and minutes packages for their existing phones for use while in the country of their assignment. All program residences are equipped with WiFi, allowing interns to stay in contact with friends and family members.

Choosing a Program, Region and Candidate for Shadowing

Job shadowing offers tremendous insights into your future career. You get to learn real-life, non-textbook requirements of the job, and you discover the nuances that you hadn’t considered. Signing up for an out-of-country medical internship isn’t a job for the faint-hearted; however, International Medical Aid offers physical protection and some of the best safety protocols you can find — even when compared to the risks of interning at a local U.S. hospital.

You get a sober view of the job, and that might trouble some people who have a very different idea of what interning in a foreign country entails. There might be communication issues, disgruntled patients, politically charged situations and inherent job risks that International Medical Aid works hard to mitigate but could still happen.

It’s a time for soul-searching, and you should ask yourself these questions before proceeding:

  • Is this a job I really want to do for my entire career?
  • Do the rewards and fulfilment of success outweigh the risks of bad days where patients die?
  • How well do I handle intense stress?
  • Do I have the personality and skills to work with people and their problems daily?
  • What options should I choose for my internship?

Applying for Internship in a Specific Field and Area

You can choose to apply for a domestic internship if you don’t think foreign work and travel are a good fit for you. If you love adventure and challenges, working in Africa, South America, Asia and the Caribbean have IMA destinations where you can prove your mettle and strengthen your qualifications.

International Medical Aid has internships for the following jobs:

  • Medical Internships for Pre-Med Students
    Those planning a medical career can work in busy international hospitals and enjoy the opportunities to shadow experienced and dedicated doctors. IMA has an extensive network of contacts in private and public facilities who can provide hands-on programs in your preferred specialty.
  • Physician Assistant Internships
    Physician assistants are more and more in demand because of the higher cost of earning a medical degree, and physician assistants can often work their way into private practice as PAs under a qualified medical doctor’s supervision. IMA internship programs are tailored to each intern’s goals, skill set, education and interests.
  • Nursing and Pre-Nursing Internships
    Nursing and pre-nursing internships are available for dedicated candidates who want to work in South America, East Africa and the Caribbean. You can choose your specialty and shadow someone if the field of your choice like ER nursing, dental nurse and other medical specialties like physical therapy.All of IMA’s foreign-based interns enjoy a safe environment to learn and work, and the job provides extraordinary insights into the culture and beauty of the region.
  • Psychology Internships
    International Medical Aid leads the field in placing interns in mental health and psychology-related fields. Many areas of the world lack access to mental health services and IMA is one of the first programs to address the need. Most psychology interns work in large public hospitals or outpatient centres where they shadow the staff as much as privacy and confidentiality allow.
  • Dentistry Internships
    Getting good dental care in the developing world is less common than in Europe or the United States. The lack of proper sanitation and basic hygienic practices complicates the work, but interns are exposed to every kind of dental issue in various urban and rural settings. Pre-dental students can shadow dentists in busy hospital settings.
  • Nutrition Internships
    IMA recognises the need for nutrition counselling in developing countries, so recently, the decision was made to offer unique nutrition sciences internships. The program is tailored for students studying nutrition and dietetics. The interns can shadow nutritionists, learn how to change hearts and minds not used to nutritional eating, help manage the disease with diet, and develop nutritionally balanced meal plans.

Safer Shadowing Opportunities for Serious Students

International Medical Aid runs a tight ship even in the most challenging treatment centres where health, hygiene and nutritional knowledge can’t be taken for granted. Interns can face stubborn refusals to follow medical advice, but IMA safety and security protocols have a 100 percent safety record. The experience of fighting Ebola and other infectious diseases in Africa puts the organisation ahead of the game to provide a safe atmosphere for interns and job shadowing, which has become a significant concern.

What Job Shadowing Doesn’t Do

Job shadowing is just one part of the intern’s learning process, but it raises significant security issues in the face of the COVID-19 crisis. Moreover, shadowing usually only lasts from one day to one week, and interns have many other responsibilities. Shadowing shows you what the job entails, but sometimes it’s not the immersive experience you might have expected.

Nonetheless, shadowing flaws aren’t necessarily applicable in the developing world where every hand is often needed. International Medical Aid interns are usually assigned to follow several medical providers in different hospital departments. Gaining a broader experience in developing countries’ chaotic environment tests your resolve, commitment, and ability to work under pressure.

Shadowing helps you sharpen your skills, and you learn more about the daily lives of the professionals you’re assigned to shadow. That enables you to decide whether the career is right for you. In many ways, it’s better to test your aptitude and resolve as a volunteer than after going deeply in debt to pay for your medical education.

Rising to the Occasion

International Medical Aid’s internships give you a clear pathway to explore your career choice. Foreign-based internships aren’t suitable for everyone, but your determination and commitment can help you rise to the occasion without worrying too much about personal safety during the coronavirus pandemic any more than any knowledgeable person would if committed to following safety guidelines.

Apply today for an internship based on your interests and education. Although some domestic internships are available, the need for volunteers in the developing countries is far greater. The experience of interning at International Medical Aid will ensure that you stand out from the crowd and prove that you have what it takes. Apply now to find your program and explore your career options.