Adaptive support measures have proven successful in mitigating COVID-19 disruptions to medical students at The University of Queensland Rural Clinical School (UQRCS).
A UQRCS study of 124 medical students in Rockhampton, Bundaberg, Hervey Bay and Toowoomba found 89 percent felt safe and supported by academic and psychological measures implemented by The University between March and November 2020.
Director, UQRCS, Associate Professor Riitta Partanen said the targeted measures were introduced to minimise the impact on student learning and well-being, when students globally were experiencing significant disruptions due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The measures provided to students included regular communication, alternative clinical placements, online teaching, financial support and assistance from The University’s student support teams.
“Other findings from the study show that 71 per cent of participants experienced isolation from family and supports, and 53% experienced increased mental health challenges,” Dr Partanen said.
“Damaged cohort social cohesion was reported by participants (77%), and almost half (49%) believed their ability to academically support each other was negatively impacted.
“However, most participants (73%) remained unconcerned about their future career prospects, despite the pandemic impact on their studies.”
The study was conducted to understand the pandemic’s impact on clinical placements undertaken by UQRCS students, and to devise ways to minimise disruptions to student learning and well-being.
UQRCS Head of Research, Associate Professor Srinivas Kondalsamy-Chennakesavan said the research has highlighted a need for further student support in the early stages of their training and strengthened communication between the academic and health sectors.
“It has also provided evidence from a student perspective on how well our strategies worked in response to the current pandemic.
“Plans are now underway to repeat the study with 2021 student placements to gain a longer-term perspective on how best to enhance student experiences in rural areas, especially during challenging events.”
This paper is published in the Australian Journal of Rural Health. DOI: 10.1111/ajr.12862