Student support: COVID-19 response

Uncertain times like these may also bring an element of fear of the unknown that drives us out of our comfort zones.  Many of us sit comfortably in our routine ways of living but when this is taken away from us so suddenly, with no prior warning or explanation, we struggle to think logically.  Take a minute to step away from it all, no matter how troubling the situation may be, and look around you. You will soon discover that:

  1. You are not alone.
  2. There are many resources out there you can use.
  3. People are reaching out to you … so embrace their help. 

ANU Medical student support groups

Peer support groups

ANU Student Medical Student Society collaborative initiative thanks to the very hard work put in by Sally Laughton (Wellbeing Officer) and Sam Gerami (MedSoc President 2020). This offers equal opportunities for those NEEDING help and those who can OFFER help to others going through similar experiences.  It is not too late if you had initially opted out. Contact Sally and/or Sam on how to opt back in.

 

Admissions Office

Weekly student tracking e-forms that inform the Medical School of your wellbeing and an opportunity for you to reach out to us should you require additional pastoral, health and wellbeing support through the links provided.

 

Operation Graduate Team

Regular weekly team web conference-enabled faculty meetings with student representation. Discussions are had around all matters pertaining to the ANU Medical School including student wellbeing (represented by myself as Chair of the Student Welfare Committee and your student reps Sam Gerami and Speros Thomas), faculty-to-student communications and teaching & learning.

You can acccess day-to-day and operational updates about your course work and other issues that affect your study on the Medical School intranet site.

 

Medical School Student Support Staff team

A group of year coordinators, Phase 2 medical advisors, and myself as Chair of the Student Welfare Committee who are entirely dedicated to your wellbeing and making your student experience at the ANU Medical School a truly positive one. This team is also supported by other faculty representatives from Clinical Skills, the Medical Education Unit, and the Research School of Psychology to provide a more holistic support package. I encourage you to direct any pastoral/wellbeing-related questions, including discussions around TAKING TIME OFF or applying for PROGRAM LEAVE, to your respective year coordinators who will either be able to settle the matter themselves, or if needed will escalate to me as per flowcharts recently added to the Student Support Centre page.

 

International Medical Student support

Faculty and student representatives who liaise directly with our international medical student cohort to address issues pertaining specifically to this student group. Dr Sivaraj Rajadorai, Palliative Care Specialist, also member of the Student Welfare Committee, and Miss Arlene Gabriela, MedSoc International Student representative, will be happy to address any of your specific queries. 

Below is some concise information and a few key links to queries that have been frequently raised in the past few weeks, which I am sure will continue to be raised time and time again throughout the foreseeable future till normality resumes whenever that may be.

 

Financial constraints

If you are encountering issues related to financing of:

  • Accommodation
  • Travel 
  • Grocery vouchers  
  • Textbook/educational IT resources to support remote study 
  • Medical costs

Further information can be found in the Vice-Chancellor’s message dated 27 March 2020 highlighting the availability of an enhanced student package. Details can be found on the ANU website.

 

Accommodation

The ANU’s communication regarding the use of accommodation facilities on ANU campus may have generated some confusion and additional anxiety.  Understandably these are uncertain times and all of us are going through a very steep learning curve including administrative, operations, communications and managerial ANU staff who are trying their best to support us all.  ANU information on residences has been updated as of 29 March 2020 and will continue to be updated on a regular basis. Please visit the Medical School intranet for on-going information and clarification.

For more details on student-related ANU campus changes refer to the ANU Website.

 

Health and Wellbeing

If you are unwell with flu-like symptoms,

  • when should you seek medical assistance?
  • when should you get tested? 
  • where should you seek medical advice? 
  • what should you do if you test positive?

 

Most common COVID-related symptoms:

  • fever
  • sore throat 
  • shortness of breath
  • cough
  • lethargy

As you can see, these are very non-specific symptoms and overlap with many other viral-related infections. The prevalence of the seasonal common cold and influenza has not changed and unless you fall under the following categories, you are still more likely to have a simple cold rather than anything else. However, seeing that this nasty new viral infection called COVID-19 has unprecedentedly spread like wildfire across the world, we need to ask ourselves a few more questions.

 

Seek medical assistance if symptoms have developed:

  • within 14 days of overseas travel
  • following contact with someone who has COVID-19
  • if you have been practising as a healthcare worker with direct patient – even if you have not recently travelled or had contact with someone who has COVID-19
  • if you been working or giving a voluntary service in a high-risk industry such as in aged care facilities and residential care facilities

 

Follow advice given by the ACT Government to see if you are eligible to get tested.

If you feel that your symptoms and situation fulfil the above criteria, and therefore suspect that you may have COVID-19 infection, you should do the following:

  • Limit your exposure to other people by isolating yourself at home (if you were not already in home quarantine).
  • Call your GP* and let them know you are worried you may have COVID-19. Calling ahead will allow your GP to provide advice and plan for your visit. You should not visit your GP without calling ahead. Testing will be arranged by your GP if they determine it is necessary.
  • If you cannot see your GP, you can visit a Respiratory Assessment Clinic. Staff at these clinics will assess your risk of COVID-19 and test you if needed. You do not need to call ahead. Further details of the Respiratory Assessment Clinic closest to you are available on the ACT Government website.

 

If medical assessment advises you to get tested, and the test comes back as POSITIVE:

  1. You MUST disclose this information to the ANU Medical School by emailing the Acting Director, Prof Zsuzsoka Kecskes directly. The information you disclose will be handled in strict confidentiality as per disclaimer statement attached to the student tracking e-form sent to you weekly by the Admissions Office.
  2. You will be contacted by the ACT Communicable Disease Control (CDC) team with further advice as indicated on the ACT Government website.

For reference and further information, you may want to visit: 

Wellbeing Resources

The Medical School has put together this list of online resources.

Feel free to email Dr Nicola Schembri directly should you have any other queries that have not been addressed.