Psychological trauma among first-year medical students: An encounter with bodies

Psychological trauma among first-year medical students: An encounter with bodies
Medical student with dead man's corpse in an anatomy laboratory. He takes notes on medical chart after autopsy.

Kampala, Uganda | URN | The first time experience in the practical human anatomy class is a dare for medical students, a number of them have stated. Medical students are introduced to practical human anatomy class in year one of their study, to help them appreciate the human body structure in future preparation for working on live patients.

The study deals with the way the parts of humans, from molecules to bones, interact to form a functional unit. The class, which is held in an anatomy laboratory where the preserved bodies are kept, involves cutting open the different parts of the body for examination.

Although it has increasingly become possible to see how a body is made up without dissection, in the study of anatomy, training facilities in Uganda still depend on the traditional methods of cutting up or dissection.

Reagan Emoru, a fifth-year Medical student recounts his first-time experience with a class full of bodies as traumatizing. According to Emoru, walking into a class with bodies laid naked on tables and the air in the anatomy circulated with chloroform traumatizing.

Emoru told this publication that he had made a decision to quit the class until he went through a series of counselling sessions.

Emoru notes that, in contrast to the time he joined Makerere University in 2015, the bodies are now covered with cloth before exposure to students which lessens the trauma.

Gilbert Busingye, a fourth-year student says that because he had heard stories about such a class before, he stood firm during his first encounter, However, he adds that inhaling the chloroform in the room made him dizzy and would often send him to unusual sleep.

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He says that after getting accustomed to the environment, working with bodies became a wonderful experience that built his confidence to work on live patients besides learning body structures and where they are located. But he adds that it’s easier when working with a person, on whom they have no emotional attachment.

Namuyomba Majorine, a second-year student says that the experience brought her to the reality of death. She, however, adds that with time, she came to learn that bodies are merely learning objects as frogs and rats would be during High School Biology practical lessons.

Another student who prefers anonymity says that although he was mentally prepared, and bodies weren’t a scare, the practicality of it became challenging during the first two classes, where he only looked on as brave students dissected the bodies.