With medical schools across the country shuttered by the COVID-19 pandemic, tens of thousands of current and would-be students are feeling in limbo. Thankfully, progress is under way, according to announcements made at a recent press conference by officials with the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC).
In mid-March, heeding recommendations of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization, nearly all of the nation’s medical schools removed students from direct patient care in order to help flatten the COVID-19 curve and conserve personal protective equipment. But in an AAMC survey, 15 percent of responding medical colleges say they plan to restore students to clinical care by the end of May; 55 percent by the end of June; and 77 percent by the end of July.
This undoubtedly is welcome news to students concerned about being able to complete the in-person care required for graduation and licensure. Still, schools are leaning toward caution and remaining mindful of compliance to all mandates and guidelines.
“Returning students to direct patient contact, like reopening communities, is a delicate balancing act,” Alison Whelan, MD, the AAMC’s chief medical education officer told Medscape recently. “Schools want to get students back to patient-centered learning, so they can continue progress toward on-time graduation in 2021 and 2022. But critical considerations, including patient safety and not triggering a second surge, must be taken into account.”
Two issues remain even as schools increasingly reopen: Physicians who typically supervise medical students may have little or no time or capacity to teach while focusing on COVID-19 patients; and when it comes to elective surgeries and routine office visits, both of which currently are severely restricted, there may be few patients to learn from until hospitals and private practices return to full operation.
A top concern is whether medical school graduates will be allowed to start their internships July 1 as is customary.
“The expectation in the medical community is that these new students do need to enter their residency programs in a timely fashion,” Whelan said.
To that end, an industry workgroup is collaborating to address issues including transportation of students to hospitals outside the areas where they currently live or study and whether those students need to be quarantined for a time before beginning their internships.
WOLFPACC is keeping a close eye on how medical schools and students are impacted throughout the pandemic. Check back often for updates and call 904-209-3140 to learn how we can help boost your chances for success with USMLE and COMLEX review courses and one-on-one tutoring.