The Covid-19 pandemic disrupted education of students all over the world. However, for students in their final stages of medical studies, the change was more worrisome, as they feared that they would not receive the optimal clinical training they aspired to with the movement to virtual learning.
“The pandemic definitely impacted our direct patient care and physical examination skills,” Bruno Pacheco, a sixth-year student at Weill Cornell Medicine–Qatar, said over the phone. “You can run simulations but you can’t develop tangible clinical skills that are needed in a physical examination through virtual training only.”
Medical students in other parts of the world share the disappointment experienced by Pacheco.
In an American study of the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic on medical students, most respondents (nearly 75 percent) agreed that the pandemic had significantly disrupted their medical education, and a majority (61 percent) believed they should continue with normal clinical rotations during the pandemic. Moreover, more than 80 percent were willing to accept the risk of infection with Covid-19 if they returned to the clinical setting.
Egon Toft, dean of the College of Medicine at Qatar University, said that it was challenging to transform clinical skills training to a virtual learning environment, but as some hospital departments were closed during the peak of the pandemic in Qatar last year, the college had to find ways to adapt.
To make it up for the lost days, the College of Medicine planned training sessions for students over the summer holidays when hospitals could receive them again. (See a related article, “Afraid of Infection, Medical Students in Egypt Want to Postpone Exams.”)
Experimenting With Virtual Platforms
Toft said that the pandemic pushed online learning forward faster. He expects to see more remote teaching at medical schools everywhere in the future.
“Students had more control over their schedules with virtual education,” he said. “Moreover, as they search online and find the right information to develop their medical knowledge, they will acquire skills to become lifelong learners after they leave the university.”