The impact of COVID-19 has been felt widespread leading to many industries having to completely transform the way they deliver services. Medical education has also undergone a significant transformation to adapt to current restrictions while still delivering the same quality education to its students.
For the School of Medicine, this period of change has forced professors, lecturers and staff to make widespread changes to recruitment processes and delivery of classes, including the crucial clinical skills training. Clinical skills are taught as practical, hands-on sessions for years 1-3 usually involving actors roleplaying as patients for students to practice with.
COVID-19 restrictions and social distancing made it difficult for hands-on sessions like clinical skills to be taught, without adaptations. However, senior lecturer, Dr Rebecca Walmsley, knew that this course was critical and needed to be adapted to be preserved saying, “the sessions allow students to learn hands-on skills and we knew that this was something we wanted to keep for students who were able to be on campus.”
One of the many changes that were made for the course was the introduction of full Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for students. Having PPE allowed for students to be able to work closely together and practice hands-on skills while keeping each other safe. PPE and COVID training were mandatory for students to complete before going through clinical skills to allow students to feel more comfortable and improve their understanding of how to use PPE safely. To maintain social distancing, group sizes were also reduced to decrease the capacity of people in each room which meant that sessions were run twice as often as before. Students also had to roleplay histories for each other since actors could not be brought in to simulate patients.
Virtual sessions were also incorporated for students that could not be on campus and for other skills that could not be taught during the in-person sessions. Nearpod, an interactive teaching platform, was also incorporated into some sessions, which allows for interactive teaching that engages students. For third-year students, the clinical skills training – which was completely redesigned – utilised virtual teaching by incorporating an Escape Room that featured various clinical puzzles students needed to solve to “escape.”
While the School of Medicine is looking forward to getting back to full face-to-face teaching, valuable lessons were learned through this experience. The module benefitted from more interaction with other medical students from other Universities and interactive teaching methods that both challenged lecturers and students. Overall, the adaptability that students, lecturers and the School of Medicine have shown has exceeded expectations for education during COVID-19.