COVID-19: Impact on Medical Education in the USA and The Way Forward

Covid 19 impact on education

There has been an unprecedented effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on the healthcare systems across the globe. The effects of the pandemic have been widely felt by the medical schools in the USA. With doctors, nurses and other medical staff having to work round the clock to care for the ever-growing number of patients, the healthcare system has been overwhelmed with the gap in the number of healthcare workers available to the number that is desired.

Additionally, the healthcare workforce-in-training has also felt the impact of the pandemic, including nursing students who are still to complete their ASN nursing programs. As per the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, there are about 14000 nursing students who have been preparing to graduate from nursing programs may have to delay graduation due to incompletion of their clinical. However, a lot of inventive programs are being designed to keep the students on track to complete their nursing education. Many of the best nursing schools in Florida have introduced their RN program online to help students attend and complete their curriculum within the stipulated amount of time.

When the medical education system is faced with disruption of this magnitude, schools need to make strategies to make necessary changes to the education system without hampering the quality of the programs.

The prominence of Public Health-

Responding to the pandemic, many of the medical schools have created electives providing the students with a chance to learn public health response. The students are given an education on past pandemics. The pandemic has taught us the importance of working together during a time of need and emphasis must be given on teaching healthcare aspirants that it requires everyone- doctors, nurses, public health, and policy experts to solve problems in such times.

Real-time curriculum-

The pandemic has presented to the healthcare workers the importance of being able to solve unknown and ambiguous problems as the crux of education rather than being able to memorize the human anatomy. This is a major difference in philosophy that needs to be incorporated into the medical education system. It would ensure that the budding doctors and nurses would be capable of addressing emerging and enduring threats to health.

Re-evaluation of graduation requirements-

Policymakers must re-evaluate the graduation requirements for medical and nursing students without affecting the quality of education. With the workforce stretched thin, a lot of medical schools graduated their final year students to help with the pandemic response. For example, states like California and Wisconsin established emergency measures allowing nursing students to graduate with 75% of the usually required clinical hours. It might be a questionable decision but surely does put forth a point to consider in the future for the medical education policies.

Crisis communication-

Crisis communication has been presented as an opportunity to be included in the medical school curriculum. Educational leaders and healthcare experts should regularly be brought together to share learning resources. Students must be allowed to interact with agencies like Prevention’s Centre for Disease Control to provide up-to-date information.

Residency selections-

The pandemic has caused most of the visiting rotations of the residency candidates to be cancelled. This inconsistency has created a threat to the residency selection as the programs rely heavily on these rotations. However, this also presents an opportunity to create a level playing field for aspiring medical students, some of whom do not have access to such experience.

Despite the disruptions caused by the pandemic, the medical students will not only continue to learn but also attain competencies that they must master to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic and any other complex health issues in the future.


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