American Univesity of Beirut

Real life lessons

​March 28, 2021

Medical (MD) and nursing (BSN) student volunteers tell us about their experiences over the past year: providing health education to the public, doing rotations at AUBMC, and helping out with the COVID-19 vaccination campaign.  ​

Roba El Zibaoui
BSN IV Student, volunteer at the immunization center

I got to meet many people, most of whom were seniors who came in for their vaccine. I could see the sheer excitement in their eyes for both finally leaving their homes for a short time, and for getting the chance to receive the vaccine. Their sons and daughters who accompanied them were just as excited to see their parents take the vaccine.

As I was going through the checklist of questions with one lady, I reached the point about asking her if she had been infected with COVID-19. She replied no, but her husband had recently died from the disease. I froze. This was the first time I had heard such a personal encounter with the terrible losses of COVID-19 and I truly felt the gravity of the pandemic. There such was sadness in her voice when she talked about her husband. I was relieved I had my mask to conceal my shocked reaction at hearing such a heartbreaking story.  

Abdul Sattar Raslan 
Med IV Student, clinical rotations with COVID-19 patients


​Throughout the pandemic and all the challenges the country has had to face, my fellow colleagues stepped up to adopt roles to meet the growing surge in patients. We were thrust into action and expected to deliver.

My most challenging rotation was during my Infectious Diseases elective, where I had to cover some of the non-COVID and short/long haul COVID cases during the country's second spike. I doubt we will ever forget the looks on the faces of some of the patients and their families. In our preclinical years, we were always taught the importance of taking a proper history and physical exam. We learnt that getting the information is the easy part; but showing care and empathy makes all the difference is.

The hours were grueling.  Going home at night to try to recollect my thoughts was just as challenging as waking up early and finding motivation to carry on with a new day. It could not have happened without such great support from mentors—from residents and fellows, to attendings from all of the various departments.

Hanine Yassine
BSN IV Student, volunteer at immunization center

It was a great honor to be even a small a part of this vaccination campaign. Unlike our usual clinical experience, we had more independence and greater responsibility in assessing the client, addressing any concerns, approving eligibility, and making decisions that mattered. The latter, for me, was one of the most challenging, as I had to respond to people who could not receive the vaccine that day. So I've developed my communication skills—and have learned to become more assertive. 

On my first day, an man in his early 80s, who had limb tremors and could barely walk, had all the needed medical reports, and came to get vaccinated. However, he had no appointment and wasn't even registered on the MOPH platform. He didn't know how to make an appointment with the MOPH and he didn't even own a mobile phone. This posed an ethical dilemma for me. Situations like these might be disheartening, but I take them as a motivation for me to do something about in the future. 

Samar Mohamad
BSN IV Student, volunteer at immunization center

As a Palestinian refugee who was born and raised in Lebanon as part of a vulnerable population, I always feel the urge to help people in need. My community service experience started in 2014, after the Syrian refugee crisis. Since then, I have volunteered in different fields including health, education, and community. Out of all my volunteering experiences, I can say this was the best.  After a year full of tragic events in Lebanon, the vaccine was the first hope for people in Lebanon to change the current situation. I am gratified that I'm part of AUBMC's well-organized team to spread herd immunity, confine COVID-19 infection, and work to preserve life. As part of my nursing duty at the ICU unit in AUBMC, I have seen that most ICU patients are healthcare providers with post-COVID-19 complications, so it is very relieving to provide primary care prevention to help avoid hospitalizations, especially to our medical and nursing staff who have been suffering for a year now. Seniors were also suffering from anxiety, fear, and loneliness, as most of them haven't gone out for a year. I was thrilled to give them life again and see their extreme happiness while receiving the vaccine. Nurses not only care for the human body but also care for the population's soul.  

Maria Chalfoun
Med IV Student, clinical rotation in Emergency Department

When I decided to take emergency medicine as an elective last month, I thought of it as an opportunity to help. People said things like: “You're crazy. Who made you do that? Don't you know it is just brimming with corona?"

The experience has allowed me to see large numbers of sick patients at our emergency room (ER) with their healthy family members waiting by the doors begging to come in. I witnessed ER residents in action as well as felt their burnout despite them trying to hide it with their practical “This too shall pass" mentality. I have witnessed attendings trying to maneuver through this crisis by keeping it cool and following the protocols. I have witnessed a pediatric emergency doctor having to take care of adults. I was in awe seeing another attending squatting behind the desk hiding from the severity of her myalgias after her second COVID vaccine dose, yet having to oversee several ER floors, and running to take care of an arrest, all while maintaining the same energy, focus, and care. Last but not least, I came to appreciate nurses more. The one-nurse-one-patient system vanished.  I remember asking around about the nurse in charge of one patient and hearing: “How can I help? We are all taking care of everyone." 

Wael Karaki
BSN IV Student, volunteer at immunization center

​As nursing students, we usually serve inpatients. With this experience, I felt how fulfilling it is to serve vulnerable members of the community.  These are people who did not leave their homes for fear of exposure to COVID-19. Being a part of the vaccination campaign has truly humbled me. Although initially I was concerned about the campaign's high risk of failure due to disinformation from those who were discouraging people from taking the vaccine, I was heartened by the willingness of healthcare providers and seniors to be vaccinated. Vaccinating over 1,400 individuals on Monday, March 8, at our center was deeply satisfying. AUBMC handled the vaccination process in a highly organized manner, and they smoothed the path to success with a social media campaign that dispelled unwarranted fears. May the vaccination campaign continue to serve the community, leaving no person unprotected from COVID-19, and may we soon see the day when we all return to our normal lives again! ​

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