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This article is the authors’ final published version in BMC Medical Education, Volume 21, Issue 1, September 2021, Article number 481.

The published version is available at Copyright © Kelly et al.

Publication made possible in part by support from the Jefferson Open Access Fund


BACKGROUND: The COVID-19 pandemic fundamentally changed every aspect of healthcare delivery and training. Few studies have reported on the impact of these changes on the experiences, skill development, and career expectations of medical students.

METHOD: Using 59 responses to a short reflection essay prompt, 3rd year medical students in Philadelphia described how the COVID-19 pandemic affected their education in mid-2020. Using conventional content analysis, six main themes were identified across 14 codes.

RESULTS: Students reported concerns regarding their decreased clinical skill training and specialty exposure on their career development due to the loss of in-person experience during their family medicine clerkship. A small number felt very let down and exploited by the continued high cost of tuition while missing clinical interactions. However, many students also expressed professional pride and derived meaning from limited patient and mentorship opportunities. Many students developed a new sense of purpose and a call to become stronger public health and patient advocates.

CONCLUSIONS: The medical field will need to adapt to support medical students adversely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, from an educational and mental health standpoint. However, there are encouraging signs that this may also galvanize many students to engage in leadership roles in their communities, to become more empathetic and thoughtful physicians, and to redesign healthcare in the future to better meet the needs of their most vulnerable patients.

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Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

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