Being a GC Student in the COVID19 Era

Student Spotlight Blog

Author: Taylor Porter, GC Student (Ohio State University)

Many genetic counselors want to know what it is like to be a student during the time of COVID-19. At least that is what I am told. Here is my perspective: the best way I can describe it is, well, different. There are pros and cons to having class and clinical rotations remotely (my personal favorite: wearing sweatpants!).

It Does Have its Perks

When beginning graduate school, we were told we may have the opportunity to participate in telemedicine clinics, and I was ecstatic. I thought it would be a unique experience but, now, it is my everyday life. It might not have lived up to the hype I envisioned in my mind, but it does have its perks. A perk most of you can probably relate to is no traffic in the mornings and more sleep (hopefully) – I love these reasons too.

Another major plus is providing counseling services to patients who may otherwise be unable to schedule an appointment. This has diversified my interactions with different patient populations, especially patients who live out-of-state.

Finally, it has forced me to develop better communication skills and time management. I can no longer just peek my head into my clinical supervisor or professor’s office to ask a quick question, and receive an immediate answer. I am starting to recognize when it is important to be independent and find the resources myself versus when I need to send an email or schedule a video call for further assistance – a skill that will most definitely come in handy as a practicing genetic counselor.

Now for the Downsides

Limited connections and in-person human interaction. Yes, I know you are probably thinking, “But, doesn’t all of Generation Z love technology?” Of course we do, but it is just not the same. I miss seeing my classmates, co-workers, and program faculty in the classroom and in the clinic. I feel extremely fortunate that I had eight months to develop those friendships and relationships, because I feel this would have been much more challenging to do so remotely.

A second challenge I face is finding motivation to complete tasks that were once routine. As I stare at the same four walls day in and day out, it can be quite mundane. The emotional exhaustion is real. Reminding myself to get out of the house and move (socially distanced, of course) has been essential.

And the ultimate nemesis of working from home… distractions from my new “co-workers” (also known as my family and dog). I recognize I have fewer distractions than others, so for this I am grateful. However, it can be quite challenging trying to stay focused during clinic appointments with my dog barking in the background. Remote services also introduce new barriers to counseling, such as patients being in public, driving in their cars, or having their own “co-workers” at home. This is frustrating for students and supervisors as we spend a great deal of time reviewing charts and preparing, to ultimately feel as though our message is not getting across via telemedicine. 

“This has lessened some of the pressure of… thinking we must perform perfectly…”

Students are facing many of the same benefits and challenges you experience being at home. This has lessened some of the pressure of being a student in thinking we must perform perfectly. I am also now more consciously aware that our patients and colleagues are real people too. So, in some respects, the commonalities we face as humans shine through more brightly while being at home. I look forward to the day when life resumes as normal, even if it is a new normal. For now, I will continue to focus on the positives that come out of being a student during COVID-19, as well as the stories I will get to share with my family years down the road.

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