KINGSTON -- Queen’s University health science students are returning to campus to complete their clinical placements during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Student in-class labs and work placements were suspended in March at the start of the novel coronavirus outbreak.

Those returning to class include nursing, medical and rehabilitation therapy students.

Baylie Morgan is with the nursing school at the university. The infield placements throughout the summer will allow her to graduate in September, on time.

She says she jumped at the chance to come back; feeling inspired by the work of front-line hospital workers during the pandemic.

“We saw all of our mentors and all of our health care workers going head on into this situation,” Morgan says. “I know as health care workers this would be really good learning opportunity for us, and we want to know what we can do to help out.”

However, things will look different this time around.

Morgan says gone are the dozen or so students who would be working in labs with her.

Instead, just four other students will be learning in one room, with an instructor, to keep within the physical distancing rules.

Students also have to self-isolate for two weeks to be allowed back in to class, and monitor for symptoms.

“I read quite a lot of books, read quite a lot of Star Wars,” jokes Morgan after having to return from Sudbury. “But I also took this time to brush up on things, since we got a lot of material to review, to kind of brush up on things I wasn’t really comfortable with maybe the first time I was in class.”

Dr. Leslie Flynn, Vice-Dean of Education in the faculty of health sciences at Queen’s, says to allow students to return, they were deemed "essential workers."

Flynn says that was done by consulting with Kingston, Frontenac, Lennox and Addington Public Health, as well as Kingston Health Sciences Centre and Providence Care hospitals.

She says students provide patient care as well.

“What an opportunity this is for them to learn in the midst of this pandemic,” says Flynn. “In the future if there’s such a thing again they’ll be the ones responsible for providing care.”

Medical students say they will have a renewed focus on telemedicine.

Josh Gnanasegaram is in his fourth year at Queen’s School of Medicine. He says it is exciting for him to learn this new way of providing health care.

“This just offers us a new way to reach people, and making sure that communications are still open without needing to even leave your home necessarily,” he says.

Rae Woodhouse is also in her fourth year at Queen’s School of Medicine. She says remote medicine has been “catapulted into the future.”

“People are just becoming more comfortable with the technology,” Woodhouse says. “We’re very fortunate to be able to learn in that mode as well because it absolutely will become part of our practice.”

Morgan says it is important to see the health care environment at a time like this, even in a region like Kingston with few cases.

“Out in the community, I think there are a lot of different roles we might have, so I think having this first hand experience will help with that.”