We’ve all been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic in some way or another, and one area that has seen significant changes in medical education. Social distancing guidelines and an urgent need for healthcare professionals arose. Medical schools have had to get creative with how they teach and train their students. In this blog post, we’ll take a look at the ways COVID-19 has revolutionized medical education.
Online Shift: Bad and Good
Covid-19 helped herald a mini-revolution. There have been many things that have arisen and become normalized because of Covid-19. We’re going to have a fair look at both positive and negative.
Anxiety & Depression
The very sudden interruption and the emergence of Covid-19 were revealed to have caused higher rates of anxiety and depression among medical students. This is according to a study published on PubMed under the title: “Prevalence of Anxiety and Depression Among Medical Students During the Covid-19 Pandemic: A Cross-Sectional Study.”
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Med students, more than other students, need a highly collaborative learning environment because of their field. With the amount of information they have to study and memorize, they typically need all the help and encouragement they can get.
Covid-19 forced many students from all majors to isolate and learn from home. For some students, this was perhaps very welcome. But others had to take much more time to adjust and probably developed negative feelings because of the change. Students who thrive in solitude or who are used to working alone evidently had fewer issues. On the other hand, social learners especially had a difficult time.
Increased Self-sufficiency & Independence
Covid-19 forced many students to get used to a remote learning environment. While many students had problems adopting remote learning, some students became much more self-sufficient. Remote learning fosters self-sufficiency and independence because:
- There is less focus on a physically present professor. There’s an increased focus on completing daily tasks while being physically alone.
- Essentially, you are teaching yourself. Most students had to follow their course’s instructions online. They had to motivate themselves to learn as if they were in a classroom. Minus having a guiding figure and the familiarity of being in a classroom.
Of course, heightened independence and self-sufficiency realistically wouldn’t apply to all med students. Some students had to deal with their mental health and well-being.
Streaming technology has dramatically changed medical students’ way of taking in information. Education and learning resources could be found beyond the classic textbook. This is one of the more positive notes of the Covid-19 revolution. Virtual reality and role-play tech are being integrated slowly. It shows huge potential to be useful for medical students.
All in all, reliance on online content prevailed during the pandemic. This helped with accessibility. Plus, not having to commute helped med students focus more on their daily learning at hand.
Virtual meetings through Zoom and other similar platforms like Teams were prevalent during the pandemic. These meetings have stayed for the most part post-pandemic. These meetings were useful for visual training, even at the cost of not being physically present.
Some medical universities were not equipped to shift to online learning so rapidly. Many testimonies online point to rapid collaboration and dependence on outside organizations to help transition. Regardless, most medical universities were able to use new digital platforms and teaching methods to accommodate remote learning.
Fortunately for most institutions, tech-savvy veterans already existed in the digital space. They lent their hand and services to the in-need institutions to make the change. Without their help, med schools and most schools might have had to postpone classes altogether.
According to an article published on the Postgraduate Medical Journal’s website, many clinical and written exams were delayed or fully substituted by online examinations due to the pandemic. As a result, many universities agreed to implement Open Book Examinations as a quick solution to the shift to online testing. Law students also had to be tested in the same way.
Additionally, medical students had to adapt to working with simulated patients. This was a change from the traditional model of learning through clinical exposure.
Despite the challenges, the integration of new practices and learning methods has proved to be beneficial for medical education. Allegedly, the Open Book Exams have helped the students become better at critical thinking and analysis.
This is because these exams require students to apply their knowledge and understanding of a subject rather than simply regurgitating information from memory. Furthermore, working with simulated patients has allowed medical students to gain experience in a controlled and safe environment without the added pressure of working with real patients.
The pandemic certainly imposed a difficult time for students, but it also revolutionized many aspects of an increasingly archaic education system. Here are the most relevant points to consider:
- The majority of med schools managed albeit with difficulties to switch to online learning. Most students were satisfied with their courses, even if some fostered negative sentiments over time.
- Remote learning gave students more flexibility which led to higher attendance for some schools.
- No social interaction led to feelings of isolation in some students.
The medical education system has stepped up to the plate during this pandemic. By using technology and finding new ways to teach, educators have managed to keep training the next generation of doctors and nurses while also meeting the growing demand for healthcare workers. But this isn’t the end of the road. We can use what we’ve learned during this crisis to rethink and improve the way we teach medical professionals.
Born and raised in the UK, Will went into medicine late (31) after a career in journalism. He’s into football (soccer), learned Spanish after 5 years in Spain, and has had his work published all over the web. Read more.