Medical Students’ Action Plan to Respond to COVID-19
Medical students who are members of the South African Medical Students Association (SAMSA) UKZN chapter initiated an action plan in response to COVID-19 at the onset of the nationwide lockdown. It takes the form of a series of presentations built around themes.
Thus far the themes that have been launched focus on spreading accurate information; factual information on the virus; understanding the use of masks and gloves; mental health and well-being; and an “I-Care” pledge challenge.
President of UKZN’s SAMSA, Ms Tivana Chellan said, ‘Our COVID-19 Student Action Team has worked diligently to educate people and to promote good mental health and compliance with the rules of the lockdown. I commend their exceptional dedication to educating and equipping people in the fight against this pandemic.
‘I have encouraged the presidents of all SAMSA chapters nationally to join us in our initiatives and to share within their own organisations and on a national scale so that we can ensure that all South Africans have access to the information.’
The first phase of the response was built around debunking myths on the virus through the creation of four e-presentations that provide simple, accurate and reliable information that holistically covers understanding, transmission and prevention of COVID-19. A section was also included on boosting one’s immune system using simple, cost-effective strategies.
Phase two was regarded as a serious and urgent issue that needed to be addressed and focused on the question of “who needs to wear a mask?” The students outlined common mistakes that individuals make when using a mask that place them at increased risk of the virus such as touching the front of the mask while in use, incorrect removal of masks and placing the mask on the chin. They also addressed cross-contamination with the use of gloves.
Phase three highlighted the importance of a daily routine and having a lockdown plan. ‘Mental health and wellbeing strategies have to be implemented on a daily basis so that we are able to remain rejuvenated and determined to conquer this pandemic,’ said Chellan.
Phase four involved the creation of solidarity badges with the I CARE pledge to encourage South Africans to unite and commit to acting in compliance with COVID-19 precautions, showing compassion to those in need of help, supporting healthcare and other essential workers and terminating the dissemination of false information during this crisis.
‘We strongly believe that heroic work and commendable acts of sacrifice, selflessness, kindness and leadership should not go unacknowledged. Therefore, each badge included a statement highlighting the significant role you could play in the fight against COVID-19. We asked everyone to post the badge most applicable to them as their profile picture and/or share it on social media platforms so that we can continue to keep the momentum going during this important period of lockdown. We call on all South Africans to help us to inspire as many people as possible to stand in solidarity and take the “I CARE” pledge for a healthy and more unified South Africa,’ said Chellan.
The creative badges were designed by students, Ms Kiara Govender (fourth-year) and Ms Serini Reddy (third-year). The COVID-19 Student Response team is made up of Medical students from first-year to those in their final-year of study.
Professor Mosa Moshabela who is heading up UKZN’s COVID-19 War Room commended the students on their remarkable initiative. ‘Congratulations on your initiative to spread accurate, factual information about this virus to our communities. During these difficult times of uncertainty, it is important for us to join together as health professionals to ensure that myths are debunked as they create panic. As Medical students, you are in a remarkable position to influence your communities through this high-impact health awareness campaign. Keep up the great work.’
Words: MaryAnn Francis