Leader of Residents’ Council: “We Have More Responsibilities than Ever Before”

Kamile Marcinkeviciute ReaktoriusThe Residents’ Council is a part of the Student Representation of the Faculty of Medicine of Vilnius University. The purpose and main function of the Resident’s Council is to represent the residents of the Faculty of Medicine and their interests at the University and national level. This academic year, Kamilė Marcinkevičiūtė, a third-year resident in internal medicine, has been entrusted with the position of chairperson of the Residents’ Council and agreed to share her experience and names the challenges that residents face.

Since December 2020, K. Marcinkevičiūtė has been working in the Fourth COVID-19 Unit of VU Hospital Santaros Clinics, and in the time remaining after her duties, she has worked in the Human Resources Management Department of Santaros Clinics. “In cooperation with residents, residency programme coordinators, and department heads, I coordinate the transfer of residents to specialised COVID-19 units. In this tense and unpredictable period, we have to look for solutions that meet the expectations of both residents and the entire medical community,” the chairperson of the Residents’ Council said.

Last autumn and this winter many residents began working in the newly opened specialised units for COVID-19 treatment. New teams are often formed using employees from different medical institutions or doctors from different specialisations. Therefore, according to K. Marcinkevičiūtė, various situations inevitably arise: “It is one thing when residents have to go to departments that have been running smoothly for many years, but it’s quite another when we are involved in the organisation of the work processes of a newly opened department.”

Marcinkevičiūtė claims that every doctor who becomes a new member of the team always brings his own understanding of how the work should go. However, in the long run, they have to adapt to each other, share knowledge and good practices, and in a few weeks, a united and high-quality team is formed. “Naturally, extra stress is added by the constant need to be careful about virus and infection outbreaks among staff”. It’s a pity that our encouraging smiles are hidden by the protective equipment that always covers our faces,” Marcinkevičiūtė said.

According to the chairperson of the Residents’ Council, working in the COVID-19 units is a big challenge for her and other residents, and not just in a professional sense. Recently, the organisation of the residency study process has also changed: “I had to review the residency programme plans and work schedules. The personal plans of each resident are also constantly adjusted. Due to the specific nature of the work in the COVID-19 units, they need more staff than usual, so everyone, without exception, has to work intensively on holidays and weekends, more often on duty at night.” In the second half of December, due to the extremely rapid flow of patients, K. Marcinkevičiūtė had to make a huge number of calls to residents asking them to start working in COVID units as early as the next morning.

“During this period, residents have had more responsibilities than ever before. The unpredictability of the disease forces us to make difficult decisions about the treatment of patients very quickly”, the chairperson of the Residents’ Council said. According to her, a young resident looking after coronavirus patients at night does not always have the opportunity to wait until morning when a more experienced colleague who can give advice arrives at work. “It’s great that together we’re strong. There have always been colleagues, more experienced professionals, who are ready to help or give advice at any time of the day and any day of the week,” Marcinkevičiūtė said. She is convinced that the actual hours spent by the current residents in the COVID-19 units certainly do not fit into any of their work schedules.

Summing up the lessons learned during the pandemic, the chairperson of the Residents’ Council said that she has no doubt that the patients currently fighting the virus need compassion and communication no less than medicine and oxygen.

“Yes, so far we can only smile with our eyes, so we’re learning to express our empathy in a different way: through our words and hard work to inspire hope and motivation in patients suffering from illness and isolation. It is hard to say how happy older patients are to be able to communicate with loved ones over the phone for even a few minutes. It is true that our work can seem thankless, because recovering patients may not even know the doctors or nurses who saved them from the grip of death. However, the significant and long-awaited vaccination process has begun and I believe that we will soon be able to feel safer and visit those we’ve missed so much,” K. Marcinkevičiūtė said.

While talking about vaccine sceptics, K. Marcinkevičiūtė would like to invite them to question their own knowledge first and urged those who share unverified or vague news, information from suspicious sources to feel a sense of responsibility, because the price of distortions or lies could be human health and life.

“This pandemic teaches us, as residents, special responsibilities and compassion. The situation is also teaching a lesson to society as a whole, and that lesson is where the freedoms and rights of the individual end and where respect and duty to one’s family, the state, and the world begins,” the chairperson of the Residents’ Council said.

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