While doctors are on the job during the COVID-19 pandemic, some medical students are stepping up to take care of their kids.
A small group of medical students at the University of Alberta is organizing an emergency child-care service for physicians and critical health-care workers after the province cancelled school classes last weekend. Child-care centres are also closed.
Most of the more than 100 volunteers are third-and fourth-year medical students who have had their clinical rotations postponed. First- and second-year students are lending a hand when they can.
"Lots of front-line health-care providers are urgently scrambling to find child-care coverage," said fourth-year medical student Jillian Schneider, one of the initiative's organizers.
"[We're] happy to be able to do something good and useful for these families who are really struggling right now," Schneider said by phone Friday.
"So we can keep our front-line providers on the front lines, helping to contain the virus."
Since starting Monday, the group has been able to match with 30 families. But with 150 families already signed up and more expected, the challenge is daunting.
"We're just a group of medical students on our laptops doing our best to match health-care providers with students," Schneider said.
She said the group is reaching out to other faculties, including nursing and dentistry, to keep up with demand.
"We're very happy that it's been well-received."
Schneider first heard of similar initiatives starting in schools in other parts of Canada.
Medical students at universities in Calgary, Toronto, Montreal and others have started their own programs and a network has developed with the various groups sharing best practices.
"We're restricting to one student per family right now and being very clear that a student-family relationship will be terminated if any party is exposed or developed any kind of even low-level flu symptoms, Schneider said, adding that reinforcing good hygienic practices was also a focus.
The emergency service is being offered until March 27, when the students may be reassigned to clinical duties.