An Aspiring Doctor Reflects On Students' Efforts To Provide Free Child Care For Health Workers

Apr 9, 2020

The spread of COVID-19 has greatly restricted medical students’ access to hospitals, which traditionally is a major part of their hands-in education. Now several aspiring physicians from Tufts and the University of New England are helping the medical community in a different way.

Becca Bell and a group of medical students from the University of New England created COVID Sitters, a group that offers free child care to Maine health care workers. The following is her story, in her own words:

"Being sent home when the pandemic had started was disappointing and frustrating. The other health care workers were working incredibly hard, and kind of being put into situations that were really uncomfortable and scary. Feeling like we couldn't help with that was tough.

"My name is Becca Bell, and I am a third-year medical student in the Tufts Maine-Track program, and I helped to organize the Maine COVID Sitters. These health care providers were being put into kind of dangerous situations and scary situations in their workspace. But then, at the same time, kind of the entire state was being shut down and people were being sent home from their jobs outside of health care. So that's including child care providers and nurseries and things like that. And so knowing that those were being shut down, I knew that our providers would need a little bit of extra help.

"We're giving one or two students to one specific family. So we're not bouncing around from home to home. And we're really trying to minimize our exposures and their exposures. And so basically the one to two students that form a pod that support a health care family, they become kind of part of that family. We think that that's the best way to kind of mitigate risk, but also provide the support that they need.

"I think we're all very aware of that - scared about the risks of going to the grocery store, let alone going into the home of a health care provider. The way I've kind of interpreted these stay-at-home orders is that we need to all work together to reduce the number of risks that we're taking, and this feels like a necessary risk to take.
 
"We've had a lot of really kind emails and messages from the health care workers getting support through our program. They're especially exhausted, and they're coming home and they're pretty grateful to have the support from the health care students that have stepped up to support them."

Becca Bell is a third-year medical student in the Tufts Maine-Track program and one of the COVID sitters, a group of medical students from the Unversity of New England that offers free child care to Maine health care workers. CovidSitters in Maine was initially founded by University of New England medical students Catherine Cattley, Lindsey Millen, Margaret Calamari, Colin Fisher and Laura Knapik. Jackie O'Sullivan brought Tufts Maine-Track medical students into the program.