So how has COVID-19 changed the way we study medicine today, and perhaps in the future? While social distancing has proven to be one of the most successful ways to combat COVID-19, it has a negative influence on other areas of our lives. One of these areas is the way students study medicine.
The world as we know it has changed rapidly. As you know, one of the temporary solutions we came up with to reduce the spread of the coronavirus was to introduce social distancing. It seems that we needed more time than was initially estimated to figure out how to slow down and eventually defeat COVID-19. During this time, it is our duty not to stay idle but find a way to adapt to the new normal instead. And we do our best to.
1. Online Teaching
We had no choice; we had to think fast. Moving to digital learning classes online was the first and the most logical step to take. Some universities adapted faster, while others needed more time to organize online courses.
With the introduction of online courses and online exams, we now have a different perspective on education. Once we have dealt with the global pandemic, it would be possible and totally acceptable to study entirely online for the pre-clinical years of medicine. They last for 2 or 3 years depending on your university’s teaching system, focusing mostly on theory, and practice is minimal to none.
To conclude, virtual learning of all pre-clinical (theoretical) subjects will become more popular.
2. Clinical Rotations Online
Clinical rotations, however, currently suffer a bit because students have limited contact with patients due to coronavirus. Not only that but planning clinical rotations for students has become nearly impossible due to the high volume of work doctors have to do on a daily basis because of the havoc COVID-19 has brought.
However, there’s an alternative, and that alternative is called Virtual Rotations using the Telehealth system. Telehealth, or Telemedicine, is defined as the use of software and electronic communications to monitor and treat patients without the need for physical contact. While this technology is not new, hospitals and clinics have now incorporated it to help students with their clinical rotations.
Alternatively, students could also diagnose patients by phone or virtually via apps like Zoom, Skype, or WhatsApp. Virtual diagnosis is likely to become an important new addition to doctors’ skill sets.
3. Graduating Sooner
Hospitals are desperate for more doctors who can help and deal with the current situation as we speak. In fact, another way that Covid-19 has changed the way we study medicine, is that students in their final years of study or close to graduating have already been recruited by hospitals in dire need of medical personnel.
It’s possible that universities will create a compressed medical course that will allow students to graduate 1 or 2 years earlier than usual. For example, an undergraduate medical course in Europe is 6 years and could possibly go down to 5 or 4.
A similar program called graduate entry medicine already exists, but it’s aimed towards bachelors with degrees related to health care, like nursing, for example. The program allows these graduates to skip subjects they’ve already studied in their previous degree, which can reduce their education duration by 2 or 3 years total.
To conclude, from now on, medical students might graduate earlier than what it was before the coronavirus.
4. Online Conferences
Before COVID-19, medical students were encouraged to attend medical conferences and give presentations in order to enhance their resumes and applications for residency. Now, having hundreds of people in a single room does not align with the measure we are taking against the spread of the coronavirus. So what do we do?
That’s right; we switched to online. While doing online conferences may seem an inconvenience at first, it also has many benefits. For example, if you want to invite a guest lecturer or attendees from across the world, they wouldn’t need to travel to attend. Students and medical schools have adapted quickly to this alternative, which could become the more preferred way of conferences post-pandemic.
5. More Online Resources for Medicine
Last but not least, there will be more online resources for medicine available worldwide due to the current situation and the large demand for doctors right now. Governments and philanthropists have already started to invest more in medical education.
This will naturally make studying medicine more famous and more appealing to prospective students. Most universities have started building online platforms (portals) where study materials and video recordings of live lectures are saved to access anytime. It’s only a matter of time before they go public.
About the Author
Dr. Sam El Mais, M.D. is a British doctor who graduated from Craiova Medical University in Romania. Sam specialized in Internal Medicine. He is the founder of Medlink Students – a company whose mission is to secure students’ entry into the medical schools of their choice. Sam has over eight years of experience in guiding and advising international students about their options to study medicine in Europe.