Local med students become babysitters to support health care workers

Distance learning may have emptied out college classrooms around the region to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus, but that hasn’t stopped medical students from finding other ways to help. 

There are doctors, nurses and lots of others in the health care industry who are working every day at a time when their kids are being kept out of the classroom or day care center, leaving them with one more thing to stress about on top of fraught situations at work.

That’s where about 150 local medical students are trying to step in.

They call themselves the “DC Covid Sitters.” Organized by students at the George Washington Medical School, it also includes medical students from Georgetown and Howard Universities.

“A lot of the medical students right now, we actually are not allowed in the hospital if we’re on rotations and if we have classes, everything is virtual right now,” said Adam Munday, a second year medical school student at George Washington University.

“So our workload has substantially reduced so we’re trying to do what we can to help the community and help the health care workers that we would be trying to help and learn from otherwise.”

The idea for this came from a similar effort at Dartmouth College.

“We’re a completely student run group,” said Wesley Ng, a fourth-year medical student at George Washington. “From there we just kind of got several other medical students who were interested to help out and we were able to reach across different schools in the DC area to make this happen.”

This child care is all being offered for free to those who work in the health care industry.

“These are people on the front lines of the pandemic,” Munday said. “These are people that have to go to work and a lot of child care facilities have closed, au pairs have left, and they don’t have anyone to babysit their kids.”

To be specific, “We are trying to first target medical residences who don’t have quite as much financial means as someone who is a full attending physician,” added Ng. “We’re also looking at nurses as well as medical assistants.”

In order to reduce the chance that the coronavirus will spread this way, the student volunteers are getting matched specifically to families and won’t be bouncing around from house to house.

“Each student is only allowed to work with one parent at a time,” said Munday. “If they cease to work with that family they have to go through a two-week waiting period to start working with another family. We’re making sure that these students aren’t going to multiple health care providers’ houses.

“We’re also recommending that every student that is taking part in this: Don’t live with older family members,” Munday said. “Try to make sure that you’re just protecting yourself and your loved ones if you’re out here volunteering to provide child care.”

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John Domen

John started working at WTOP in 2016 after having grown up in Maryland listening to the station as a child. While he got his on-air start at small stations in Pennsylvania and Delaware, he's spent most of his career in the D.C. area, having been heard on several local stations before coming to WTOP.

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