October 7

How Coronavirus Pandemic Has Severely Affected Medical Education


COVID-19 took less than a year to significantly change the world. From how people interact and move around, the declining economy, new ways businesses operate to schools’ approach to teaching.

But the medical community felt most of the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic. It forced doctors, nurses, scientists and other health workers to spend more time in the field and to try to control and understand the rapidly spreading disease, putting them at high risk of exposure to the virus. 

Future health professionals have also been facing the challenges brought by COVID-19. As many parts of the U.S. and other countries remain in lockdown, medical students get very limited clinical experience because of restrictions to be in the field.

These challenges affect healthcare industries and training programs, including dental school, physical therapy training, optometry and pharmacy school, among other areas. Clinical immersion is one of the most important aspects of medical education.

“Healthcare professionals will conclusively admit that a significant portion of medicine is learned ‘by doing, not reading.’” Sai Balasubramanian, J.D., said in an article posted on Forbes. “That is, medical knowledge is not only acquired from books and lectures, but also by interacting with patients and working through diagnoses.”

However, institutions and schools have been changing their approach to providing clinical experience amid the COVID-19 pandemic. New hybrid learning models focus on online classes.

The new ways of learning mainly aim to help students avoid exposure or potentially spreading the novel coronavirus. But Balasubramanian expressed concern that remote learning may provide very limited clinical experiences.

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That is why governing bodies like the American Medical Association (AMA) and the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) have been updating their guidelines to help medical students adopt the changing healthcare landscape. 

AMA recently issued its new guidance on various issues, including training experience with limited patients at training sites and board examinations during the pandemic. Meanwhile, AAMC launched a coronavirus resource hub to help address concerns around medical training.

For medical students applying to residency programs this fall, the AAMC recommended “all programs commit to online interviews and virtual visits for all applicants, including local students, rather than in-person interviews.” 

Balasubramanian said many of today’s changes in medical education may become permanent in the future. The year 2020 may serve as a trial-run focused on safety and viability. 

Medical Students Group of medical students at the hallway wearing face mask. Gustavo Fring/Pexels

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