They call themselves MI COVIDsitters. They are medical, nursing and other health care students not yet ready for the frontlines of the coronavirus pandemic, but wanting to help somehow.
“I’d been reading the stories about how the hospitals are overwhelmed like a war zone,” Jordan Griep, third-year MSU College of Human Medicine student, said. "If we can’t be there helping them, at the very least, it would be nice to set something up to help the people who are working there.”
That’s when he heard of a group of medical students at the University of Minnesota, calling themselves MN COVIDsitters, offering health care workers a range of free services, including childcare, petsitting and household errands.
A group of Ross University medical students had already set up a similar program in the Detroit area and created a MI COVIDsitters web page.
Griep and Claire Krohn, another College of Human Medicine student, offered to head a West Michigan chapter.
Griep posted information about it on Facebook, and friends got in touch and asked if there was any way they could help.
Other College of Human Medicine students joined MI COVIDsitters, offering help to health care workers in Midland and the Upper Peninsula, and students on the Flint campus expressed similar interest.
“It’s popping up all over the place,” Griep said.
Since it started in Minnesota, similar programs have sprung up around the globe, including in Canada and England.
Griep contacted hospital administrators in Grand Rapids and invited students in nursing, physician assistant and other health care programs at Michigan State, Grand Valley State University and Aquinas College to volunteer.
Health care workers can fill out a form online asking for help. That includes doctors, nurses, secretaries, janitors — anyone whose work schedule has been disrupted by the coronavirus.
Each student is assigned to one family to avoid spreading the coronavirus. Although the students offer their services for free, the web page accepts donations of personal protection equipment and meals for health care workers, as well as money.
MI COVIDsitters is just one way MSU is helping relieve the burden on health care workers. After in-person classes were canceled in March, MSU offered hundreds of health care students — including those who had completed nursing, medical and osteopathic programs — to help care for patients.
Griep had expected to be doing a rotation in an emergency room this summer. Instead, he will be taking online courses and studying for his board exams — while volunteering through MI COVIDsitters.
"We’re all feeling a little frustrated," Griep said. "The concept I keep thinking about is relief. I think about all the stress these health care workers are experiencing, trying to keep people alive and off ventilators. We’re all here to be future doctors. At the very least, we can help out the people who are already there."