Spokane public health officials have recruited medical and nursing students to be part of an enhanced contact tracing team. Their job will be to contact and follow people who test positive for the coronavirus.
One Washington State University medical student is already involved in a similar effort.
Ravneet Waraich knew when the Covid outbreak began that she wanted somehow to help.
“It became very clear that resources were going to become limited and it was going to be challenging to figure out what the medical student role would look like," Waraich said.
She volunteered when she heard the Spokane Regional Health District had developed a partnership with the Spokane Alliance. That’s a group of environmental and labor organizations. Epidemiologists train volunteers to track Covid patients who choose to be contacted.
“As soon as they enroll into our program at the health district, we get notified and we get one of our volunteers to drop off a pulse oximeter and then they get monitored for 10 days through our program. We check their heart rate levels and their oxygen levels and it provides a sense of comfort, you know, if my numbers are between this number and this number, I’m doing ok, even if I might feel really crummy," she said.
Waraich checks in daily with her own small group. If someone’s vitals change or the patient becomes concerned, she works with health district professionals to determine a plan of action for them.
Waraich has been surprised at the broad range of symptoms patients experience. Hearing their stories, she says, helps her understand more about their struggles.
“It’s been very sad, I think, but it’s also been very fulfilling to understand and really get to know the people behind these numbers," she said. "I think oftentimes we get caught up in, today, X number of people have passed away or X number of people have tested positive, But we need to remember behind those numbers are people and their lives and their livelihoods.”
She says this experience is helping her decide about her career specialty, possibly in internal medicine.