What are the key teaching elements that medical students feel they are missing when learning from home?
On the 16th March 2020, the UK’s government introduced the first steps in social distancing and quarantine aiming to slow the spread of the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), the novel virus that causes the COVID-19 disease. At 20.30 on 23rd March 2020, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that the UK would be entering a state of lockdown. By the end of the month, over 100 countries had implemented some form of lockdown procedure.
In the UK, this meant that nonessential travel was banned, nonessential shops, schools and universities were closed, and the population was asked to STAY AT HOME.
For medical students, this has meant that all teaching has either been moved online or cancelled. While some students may well be pleased to not have timetabled teaching or exams, many medical students are finding it increasingly difficult. Medical students have been banding together to create online teaching resources, webinars, interviews and revision guides.
There is a large population of medical students who have dedicated their time to volunteering and working to help the NHS and their local communities as I spoke about in my previous post. If you want to know more about volunteering in the UK, please read here. However, the Medical Schools Council has made it clear that medical student’s priorities should be continuing our studies.
I was curious about how medical students have been getting on for the last month of self-directed studies.
I asked the #MedStudentTwitter community to discuss what medical students felt they were missing most due to cancelled teaching.
How did #MedStudentTwiter respond?
Many medical students are finding that the lack of patient contact is one of the main issues with learning medicine from home.
I feel that medicine isn’t something that can be learnt from a textbook – it’s a vocational degree, so as much as my med school are doing a fab job trying to teach us from a distance, it can’t replace being on the wards with the patients and MDT— Jenny Pewsey (@Jenny_Pewsey) April 21, 2020
Most definitely seeing patients, they are the best learning opportunity. Spending 8 hours a day talking to patient after patient. Now having to read textbooks, it is so much more difficult to learn clinical medicine— Dean Hardy (@Dean_Hardy1) April 20, 2020
Patients, definitely patients. When I’m stressed or tired, I like going to just talk to a random patient about anything but medicine e.g. fav foods, hobbies etc. Those conversations get me through my weeks and now I miss seeing patients— Nabilah Mayat (@NabilahMayat) April 20, 2020
“He who studies medicine without books sails an uncharted sea, but he who studies medicine without patients does not go to sea at all.”— Ross (@RossDoesHisBest) April 21, 2020
Almost every responder spoke about missing patient interactions, patient learning experiences and patient feedback.
Another common thread was medical students missing out on learning from lecturers, doctors and teaching staff.
Being taught. Seems obvs, but teaching is an art. We’ve had a whole module without any lecture recordings, just slides with impromptu voice overs + I know for fact that the lecturer is actually a very good one, so its a shame to miss that.— Felecia D’souza (@feleciadsouza) April 20, 2020
While some universities have created learning resources for their students, my own included, some universities have left students to their own devices.
A very interesting point was raised regarding incoming and prospective medical students:
Not directly med students but think of all the work experience weeks that aren’t going to go ahead… year 12s can’t really get NHS jobs either while their schooling is so unclear right now. How people will have sufficient experiences for interviews for 2021 entry I don’t know…— Louis de Bernard (@Ldeb1403) April 21, 2020
This is a very insightful argument, and one that I tried to address in a post for Becoming a Doctor in a recent post. I will be working with Becoming a Doctor more on this topic, and to keep up to date please subscribe to my mailing list!
For some students, missing a block of clinical placements at medical school could mean missing out on exposure to a medical speciality before graduating as some medical schools organise placements by specialism.
My surgery placement block, especially since it’s the specialty I want to pursue— Chloe Chia (@chloechiaw) April 20, 2020
Medical students also said that they missed working alongside others and being able to take breaks at the same time.
It seems trivial but just having people around to study with/take a break with always helps me have some structure to my revision (I’m intercalating this year). It’s a bit more difficult to do that now we’re at home and scattered all over the world!— Lizzie Daly (@Daly__Elizabeth) April 20, 2020
Over the coming weeks I’ll be working with Becoming a Doctor to produce learning resources for current medical students and newly qualified doctors. You can read more about the projects we’ll be developing here and on the Becoming a Doctor website.
A big thank you to everyone who got involved on Twitter, I found it very helpful to hear your concerns. I’ll be taking them all into consideration with the upcoming projects.
Are you a current medical student? What challenges have you found when studying from home? What are you missing most about your normal routine? Let me know!
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