|Year : 2020 | Volume
| Issue : 3 | Page : 83-84
COVID-19 pandemic: Medical education is clinging on a knife's edge!
Md Anwarul Azim Majumder
Faculty of Medical Sciences, The University of the West Indies, Cave Hill Campus, Bridgetown, Barbados
|Date of Submission||13-Aug-2020|
|Date of Acceptance||24-Aug-2020|
|Date of Web Publication||22-Sep-2020|
Md Anwarul Azim Majumder
Faculty of Medical Sciences, The University of the West Indies, Cave Hill Campus, Bridgetown
Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None
|How to cite this article:|
Majumder MA. COVID-19 pandemic: Medical education is clinging on a knife's edge!. Adv Hum Biol 2020;10:83-4
The current COVID-19 pandemic has created challenges in medical education and has had profound medical, political and financial impacts around the globe. Since February this year, most of the countries across the world have experienced abrupt disruptions in the delivery of medical education and training due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Strict and widespread lockdowns and social distancing have catalysed the transformation of curriculum delivery into fully online modes., This is problematic for medical schools as, traditionally, medical education and training have relied on face-to-face learner interaction. Furthermore, certain competencies may not be realised in the absence of laboratory, practical and clinical/bedside teaching sessions.
Medical schools are now facing practical and logistical challenges towards continuing their academic activities, as many of those around the world have restructured their teaching, assessment, clerkships and residency training in a significant manner amidst the pandemic., This unusual situation has presented unprecedented challenges in medical school assessment and examination.,,,, Clinical placements and training have been suspended due to the concern raised for the safety of patients and students. Students may potentially spread the virus when asymptomatic and may acquire the infection during training in hospital settings.,, Hence, it is now urgently required to examine how the pandemic affects learning environments, and to identify potential implications of this unexpected emergency for the future preparedness of medical education. It is clearly evident that students will be affected throughout the educational process, and, as a result, the delivery of learning in medical schools will change in the future. Social distancing will limit students' ability to attend lectures, practicals, laboratories, problem-based learning sessions, clerkships and other modes of in-person teaching. Medical schools are considering migrating towards asynchronous “anytime/anywhere” learning methods. Therefore, policymakers need to work to limit the impact of the pandemic on the progression of students by prioritizing teaching and assessment, working with local stakeholders to make appropriate contingency arrangements and making adjustments in teaching and planned assessments.
However, the discussion is currently ongoing regarding how clinical education in hospital settings could be implemented so that students can have meaningful clinical experiences and meet clerkship goals and objectives while satisfying the requirements of licensing and accrediting bodies. In March/April 2020, the Association of American Medical Colleges strongly recommended that “medical students not be involved in any direct patient care activities” and 'medical students' participation indirect care of patients with or without known or suspected COVID-19 must be voluntary, not required.” It was also suggested that any clinical activities involving patient contact should use personal protective equipment to minimize the potential spread of the virus and protect students., In response to canceled clerkships, many medical schools during that time successfully transitioned to online learning using web-based cyber classrooms, videotaped vignettes, audiotaped recordings, virtual patients, online chat rooms, videoconferencing and telemedicine sessions and webcasting to replace clinical teaching., As a result, students missed some clerkships, had limited exposure to various specialties, and missed the chances of networking and guidance provided by faculty. The extended period of time suspended from clerkships deprived students of essential clinical decision-making and empathetic patient care skills, which are required to be successful in clerkship and beyond.
The progression of final-year medical students to internships is especially crucial in times of healthcare crisis. In that context, some medical schools have opted to assess progression through open-book examinations. However, developing assessment strategies sufficient to determine competency for graduation from medical school is a significant challenge under the pandemic conditions.,, Medical schools in the UK have been urged to fast-track final year medical students by waiving requirements for clinical examinations and drawing on alternative methods of assessment. This challenge is uncharted territory for medical schools; furthermore, there is limited evidence to guide medical education in this crucial time.
The pandemic presents a number of stressors for students preparing for examinations. Social distancing, non-conducive home environments for study and family conflicts may provide barriers to learning.,, Academic delays and clerkship cancellations may incite acute stress disorders, fear and panic, emotional distress and other mental health disorders among medical students.,,, Moreover, a novel, unfamiliar examination format poses additional pressure and increases the opportunity for academic misconduct resulting from either open or closed-book assessment formats., All these uncertainties concerning their education and assessment can generate stress and anxiety and social distancing contributes to the experience of loneliness.,,,,
This unprecedented situation may forever alter the landscape of medical education. As such, the training and education of medical students may need to be approached with a fresh line of thought. It is essential that medical schools should ensure that medical students continue to receive the knowledge and skills required to practice medicine as competent and safe clinicians. Medical schools also need to work to limit the impact of the pandemic on the progression of students by prioritising teaching and assessment, working with local stakeholders to make appropriate contingency arrangements and make adjustments in teaching and planned assessments.
Conflicts of interest
Dr. Md Anwarul Azim Majumder is in the Editorial Board of Advances in Human Biology.
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