KANSAS CITY, Mo. — As area hospitals face surges in COVID-19 cases and staffing shortages, workers are stretched thin.
Dr. Steven Stites, chief medical officer at the University of Kansas Health System, said many area hospitals are seeing staffing shortages because workers are contracting or being exposed to COVID-19 in the community, not the hospitals.
Local medical students approaching graduation told 41 Action News they're eager to get to work and help relieve the health care workers on the front lines of the pandemic.
Anastasia Ambrosio, a fourth-year medical student at Kansas City University of Medicine and Bioscience, said she is planning to begin her residency as an emergency room doctor after graduating in the spring.
"I’m just excited to get out there, honestly," Ambrosio said.
Health care runs in Ambrosio's family. Her mother is a nurse and worked in a COVID-19 unit in New York.
"It was super hard seeing these extremely sick cases on more of a regular basis than she was used to," Ambrosio said.
Medical students at the university were pulled from their hospital rotations when the pandemic began in March.
"It was really hard to be sidelined, everybody was kind of just really eager to jump in and do anything we could," Ambrosio said. "I tried to join a lot of different groups and relief efforts for COVID."
Ambrosio said students have been back in hospitals for several months now and are hoping it stays that way.
"We are terrified of being pulled out again because we just want to be there helping and getting the experience," Ambrosio said.
Now that Ambrosio is a matter of months away from graduation, she said it can't come soon enough.
"I'm personally super excited, I just want to get out there and back up the front lines and just get in there," Ambrosio said.
It's a similar feeling for fourth-year KCU medical student Neal Talukdar, who plans to enter a general surgery field.
"Seeing the effort from these front-line workers makes me more inclined to enter this field, and I’m thankful for the opportunity," Talukdar said.
Talukdar said he's honored to be a part of the joint effort from healthcare workers to fight the pandemic.
"I think everybody that’s graduating whether it’s physicians or nurses or techs, I think everybody’s going to have a unique role to play in managing the virus," Talukdar said.
A spokesperson for the university said applications to medical school are up 30 percent from last year — a promising sign that students are choosing a career in health care when it's needed now more than ever.
"We'll get through it," Ambrosio said. "It’s just part of our life right now, and we'll just keep moving forward."