Anna Makarova, coordinator of medical volunteers in Tatarstan: “We knew where we were going”

The student at Kazan State Medical University — about the volunteer movement in the conditions of COVID-19

Anna Makarova, coordinator of medical volunteers in Tatarstan: “We knew where we were going”
Photo: Rinat Nazmetdinov

According to the Tatarstan ministry of healthcare, the number of patients with COVID-19 doctors in the republic is already about 700. Clinics and hospitals are understaffed, and since March this gap has been closed by volunteer medical students. Anna Makarova, the coordinator of the Tatarstan branch of the all-Russian public movement Medical Volunteers, 5th-year student of the Kazan State Medical University, told Realnoe Vremya about the risks and bonuses of participating in the volunteer movement, the border between voluntary and mandatory and medical “Covid-19-escapists”.

“Military” duty plus points for the future

Anna, since the spring of 2020, volunteering for medical students in the strict sense has ceased to correspond to the essence of this term. On April 27, Minister of Healthcare of Russia Mikhail Murashko signed an order, on the basis of which medical students were attracted to work in medical institutions on a mandatory basis. Do you consider it right?

Our volunteer headquarters opened on March 23, and people come here voluntarily. Not only doctors — help is also needed in the delivery of medicines and food to the elderly.

As for medical students who work as volunteers in hospitals... When I hear complaints about compulsion, that we have become cannon fodder, I sincerely do not understand: when we entered medical schools, we knew where we were going.

They knew how practical healthcare works. And another thing: we are conscripts, and now the situation is so difficult that refusing to work in a hospital is the same as refusing to go to war. Besides, this is now being done as part of the educational process.

Are working hours in hospitals included in the curriculum?

No, but there is a significant motivation in the form of additional points for admission to internship. Three hundred hours worked by a volunteer is 20 additional points. For 150 hours above these 300, more points are awarded, in total you can score up to 40. Participation in writing scientific articles, which also gives additional points, is awarded less.

We are conscripts, and now the situation is so difficult that refusing to work in a hospital is the same as refusing to go to war

Is there any norm for how much you need to work? Well, there's a hundred, two hundred, three hundred...

There is no norm. If you have free time, you come and help.

Are there any “escapists” among the students? Those who firmly said: I will not work because I am afraid to get infected and infect my loved ones.

There are no such among students. There are among interns. They have different agreements with the university. If, for example, an intern is a contract student, he or she must work as a volunteer, but usually in the medical organisation which funded his or her education.

And if a person studies at his own expense, he has the right to say that the contract lists everything that he paid for, and he is not obliged to do anything beyond this curriculum.

What do you do with such “escapists”?

We talk (smiles). We try to find arguments, to motivate the person somehow. There is always a chance. Sometimes it works out.

There is a risk — there is insurance

But the risk of getting coronavirus for a volunteer is not that high now — it is almost guaranteed. Aren't you afraid for yourself, for the relatives you might infect?

Well, I was already ill — in September. In a light form. We just need to understand that one way or another we will all get over it until we develop collective immunity.

Many volunteers are employed in medical institutions officially. For example, those who have nursing certificates are given after the third year. Besides, they are all insured without exception

Well, at least the doctors are insured. Are there any additional guarantees for volunteers?

Certainly. Many volunteers are employed in medical institutions officially. For example, those who have nursing certificates are given after the third year. Besides, they are all insured without exception.

That is, in case of illness, they will receive compensation, as well as doctors?

Yes. Moreover, those volunteers who do not work in the hospital but deliver food and medicine to the elderly, disabled, and COVID-19 patients, are also insured. Auto-volunteers are also insured — we are looking for them now, by the way — cars are very necessary. In the spring, there were no problems with them, since people did not work, and now everyone is at work.

Taking this opportunity, I appeal to the drivers: who can give me a call and come visit us in the headquarters of Patrisa Lumumby Street, 4!

To the “red zone” — at your own request

Where are volunteers working now?

Mainly in the city clinical hospital No. 7, Republican Clinical Hospital, Republican Cancer clinic.

What do they do?

Until the third year, if there is no medical certificate, they perform simple work — transportation and routing of patients, paperwork, and so on. At first glance, these are small things, but in fact a very important task: doctors are overloaded, and when a volunteer helps to draw up papers, the doctor has more time to help the patient.

Doctors are overloaded, and when a volunteer helps with paperwork, the doctor has more time to help the patient

What do undergraduates do?

In fact, they perform the work of a nurse. This is trusted by students of 4-6 courses.

Do they attract volunteers to work in the “red” zone?

Very few — those who have expressed such a desire themselves. All such people are required to be employed — with a social package, guarantees and insurance.

And who will treat you?

Have you encountered in your work with Covid-19-dissidents — those who refuse to put on a mask, comply with sanitary requirements, because “the faster we get over it, the faster collective immunity will appear”?

Yes, but it is wrong! Almost everyone will be infected, of course. But if you do not follow the protection measures, the virus will spread very quickly, and everyone will get sick at the same time. And doctors, too. But someone has to treat COVID-19 and other non-viral diseases, right? And this also applies to other professions — the world should not freeze, stop.

Anna, how long have you been involved in the volunteer movement?

I started helping in the hospital in 2016, when I entered the medical department of the Kazan State Medical University. I graduated from the Medical College and has a nursing degree. So I immediately began to perform more skilled work than beginners.

Almost everyone will be infected, of course. But if you do not follow the protection measures, the virus will spread very quickly, and everyone will get sick at the same time. And doctors, too. But someone has to treat COVID-19 and other non-viral diseases, right?

Does volunteering interfere with your studies — is it an additional burden?

It is really difficult to study and help in the hospital. But we do not only help, we are there learning, too. Doctors and nurses are grateful for our help and help us in turn. So you don't just work, but at the same time you gain practical knowledge much faster.

Do you get any credits for “working” this practice at the university?

No. The educational process is separate, and volunteering is separate. And it was easier to study in the spring, during the first wave, it was easier to combine at distance learning. But now we have to rush from the university to the hospital.

How do your patients treat you?

Differently. But most are also grateful. Well, there are, of course, those who look with disbelief: did you put the dropper correctly, did you perform the procedure? This is understandable, we are not doctors after all. In general, we do find a common language.

From doctor to manager

After graduating from he university with such a large baggage of experience, will you go to work in a state hospital or, on the contrary, will you look for something easier and more interesting?

I always dreamed of becoming a dermatovenerologist, since high school. Now, after four years of volunteering, having gained experience as a movement coordinator, I realised how important the organization of the treatment process is. Now I dream of working in the healthcare department. Everything is busy here, after that it will probably be boring to receive patients. I see how the healthcare sector is organised from the inside, and I believe that our ideas and thoughts — the ideas of young people — will help change something for the better in it.

I see how the healthcare sector is organised from the inside, and I believe that our ideas and thoughts — the ideas of young people — will help change something for the better in it

But if you can't get to the department right away, then where?

In terms of internship, I have two ideas: either go to the specialty “Healthcare Organization” and simultaneously pass an internship in the Russian Ministry of Healthcare, this is an opportunity for me as the coordinator of the regional volunteer movement. Or learn more about medicine from the inside — go to therapy.

By Inna Serova. Photo: Rinat Nazmetdinov
Tatarstan