Med students can gain invaluable experience during the pandemic

Friday, 01 May, 2020

Med students can gain invaluable experience during the pandemic

Despite the disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, medical students at Flinders University have demonstrated their commitment to health care and their chosen career, benefiting from witnessing the health system’s approach to the pandemic. Publishing an article in The Medical Journal of Australia, Flinders University authors concluded that they “remained committed to providing medical students with clinical placements” with necessary precautions in place.

The authors explained that removing students from clinical placements may not prepare them for their career in health care and could have significant implications for future workforce planning.

“There is heightened anxiety among the existing workforce, who are understandably concerned about the rapidly changing impact of the virus,” the authors said.

“This can lead to differing opinions among clinical supervisors as to the merits of continuing clinical placements.

“At our university we have addressed this by writing and widely distributing clear guidelines for clinical placements in partnership with medical students and healthcare provider partners.

For clinical placements considered high risk, such as endoscopy and other aerosol-generating procedures, the university has encouraged clinical supervisors and students to negotiate activities that do not increase the risk of COVID-19 exposure to the student, staff or patients.

The authors wrote that the ‘real-life’ learning of a clinical placement during the COVID-19 pandemic could prove invaluable for final-year medical students.

“To date, we have not had any students choose to withdraw from clinical placements,” they wrote.

“While they have concerns about their personal safety, they remain committed to both patient care and their own learning.

“Students have seen health system governance operationalised, witnessed senior clinicians act thoughtfully and with intent despite their own anxiety, and watched professional practice role modelled in the provision of good communication and a sense of humanity and compassion for sick patients.”

The authors explained that ongoing evaluation of the educational experience that students are receiving will assist in the provision of additional learning if deficits arise and, in the worst scenario, help to identify if clinical placements are no longer tenable.

Image caption: Matilda Smale, Senior Vice President of Flinders Medical Student Society, Pamela Bebrehiwot and FMSS President Liam Ramsey at the student garden near Flinders Medical Centre. Image credit: Flinders University.

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