January 2020: The news had started to circulate about a virus spreading in China. It was related to SARS and MERS and expected to stay in the east.
February 2020: The news channels were now covering the novel coronavirus spreading outside China. Little by little, it was nearing the borders of the EU.
13.3.2020: The Estonian government declares a state of emergency, University of Tartu cancels regular contact learning, and social media explodes with panic. We all make memes and jokes about toilet paper to better survive the shock.
We are three University of Tartu medical students currently in our fourth year. We are groupmates and see each other daily in classes now, but last spring we were colleagues in a slightly different setting. We were all corona volunteers at Tartu University Hospital in the spring of 2020, and now we’d like to tell you a little about our experiences and what we think about volunteering in Estonia in general.
How did we decide to become volunteers at Tartu University Hospital?
Iina Gyldén: Not long after the state of emergency was declared, I heard from my classmates that Tartu University Hospital, our home hospital, was looking for volunteers among medical and nursing students to help with the new additional infection control measures.
A cynical person could point out that that was a glorified way of saying they were looking for cleaning staff and they wouldn’t be wrong. However, what that simple dismissal fails to see is that when trying to keep a new virus like this in control in a hospital environment the system needs every free pair of hands to do that work.
At that time I had been entertaining the idea of finding a place to volunteer at for a good while already. I am recovering from a burnout and somewhere along that journey I had started hearing people repeatedly mention the importance of volunteering in regard to psychological and emotional well-being.
I now had spare time and already knew I’d be staying in Estonia for the spring instead of returning to my native Finland. In the end, my decision to volunteer was made by the simple fact that they were looking for people to do it; they needed hands and mine were free.Continue reading