Wednesday, April 1, 2020

COVID-19 May Bring Long-Term Changes to Medical Student Education

Medical students are just one of the many groups of U.S. students whose education has been swiftly transitioned into online learning environments to attempt to slow the spread of COVID-19. In an article published yesterday in JAMA, Suzanne Rose, M.D., M.S.Ed., of the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine described several immediate and long-term effects of COVID-19 on medical student education.

In response to COVID-19, medical education faculty have moved preclerkship curriculum, small-group discussions, and examinations to online formats, Rose wrote, and many clinical rotations have been temporarily suspended (as advised by the Association of American Medical Colleges).

“There is uncertainty regarding how long this situation will persist and increasing recognition that there may be periods in the future after reengagement in a ‘new normal’ environment, in which quarantines and social distancing may again be required,” she continued. “The challenge is in providing authentic patient experiences for medical students as a key component of medical education under these circumstances. If schools defer clinical immersion experiences, there could be two full cohort classes of students in the clinical environment simultaneously, and education could be adversely affected by the density of learners (which is already a problem in many geographic locations).”

Sidney Weissman, M.D., a past president of the American Association of Directors of Psychiatric Residency Training, told Psychiatric News by email that the postponing of core clerkships for third-year students is already taking place. “One quarter of [the third-year core clerkships] have been cancelled and will have to be taken [by students] in their fourth year. This will impact their experience of the core medical specialties and may impact their eventual choice of specialty,” he said. Additionally, the COVID-19 crisis will likely lead to delays in information that medical schools supply to residency programs and complicate students’ ability to take the United States Medical Licensing Examination, he said.

COVID-19’s impact on the timeline for residency applications for current third-year students and students’ ability to meet requirements for some subspecialties before applying to residency also remain unknown.

Despite these challenges, Rose noted that “learners across the continuum of education have participated in many ways to care for patients and communities in this crisis. In medical schools across the country, students are volunteering in call centers, creating patient education materials, and helping with grocery shopping, among other activities, while adhering to physical separation, safe travel (walking, biking, or personal car), and supervision.”

She concluded, “There are many examples whereby learning from difficult experiences (for example, emergence of HIV, response to disasters) changed discovery, science, and patient care. Students and educators can help document and analyze the effects of current changes to learn and apply new principles and practices to the future. This is not only a time to contribute to the advancement of medical education in the setting of active curricular innovation and transformation, but it may be a seminal moment for many disciplines in medicine.”

(Image: iStock/Wavebreakmedia)

APA’s COVID-19 Resource Center Keeps You Updated

APA’s COVID-19 Resource Center brings together a number of useful resources from APA and other authoritative sources to help you deal with the COVID-19 crisis.


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