NORFOLK, Va. - When Joseph Hirst started his medical journey, he didn't know it would lead him here -- weeks away from residency in the middle of a pandemic.
"It's hard to be prepared for this at any stage of your career, especially as green as we are as fourth-year students," says the fourth-year medical student at Eastern Virginia Medical School.
Across the country, states are relying on medical students to step up. In New York and Massachusetts, for example, students are given the option to graduate early so they can fill needed gaps in local hospitals.
Virginia isn't quite there yet, but as the virus develops, Hirst says he doesn't count that out.
"I also know that my classmates are more than prepared to start early if that's where things... things went for Virginia."
He's about to graduate from EVMS in Norfolk and knows that when he does, there will be some challenges.
Even though he's going into pediatrics and they're not being hit as hard as the older generations, the lack of protective gear (PPE) available hurts all aspects of medicine.
"The medical field is not perfect, and I think unfortunately this is exposing a lot of those imperfections, but it's also giving a spotlight to a lot of efforts of people that are more than willing to put their lives on the line," he says.
In addition to that, Hirst goes on to say that it shows how the medical field is adapting: Universities are changing the way students conduct clinicals, and hospitals are temporarily shifting people's specialties to help out where the need is greatest.
Hirst says,"The capability to help people at their most vulnerable point I think inspires a lot of us."