Background: COVID-19 disrupted undergraduate clinical education when medical schools removed students from clinical rotations following AAMC recommendations. Clerkship directors (CDs) had to adapt rapidly and modify clerkship curricula. However, the scope and effects of these modifications are unknown. Objective: To examine the effects of the initial phase of COVID-19 on the internal medicine (IM) undergraduate clinical education. Design: A nationally representative web survey. Participants: IM CDs from 137 LCME-accredited US medical schools in 2020. Main Measures: Items (80) assessed clerkship structure and curriculum, assessment in clerkships, post-clerkship IM clinical experiences, and CD roles and support. The framework of Understanding Crisis Response (Royal Society for Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures, and Commerce) was used to determine whether curricular modifications were “amplified,” “restarted,” “let go,” or “ended.” Key Results: Response rate was 74%. In response to COVID-19, 32% (32/101) of clerkships suspended all clinical activities and 66% (67/101) only in-person. Prior to clinical disruption, students spent a median of 8.0 weeks (IQR: 2) on inpatient and 2.0 weeks (IQR: 4) on ambulatory rotations; during clinical re-entry, students were spending 5.0 (IQR: 3) and 1.0 (IQR: 2) weeks, respectively. Bedside teaching and physical exam instruction were “let go” during the early phase. Students were removed from direct patient care for a median of 85.5 days. The sub-internship curriculum remained largely unaffected. Before the pandemic, 11% of schools were using a pass/fail grading system; at clinical re-entry 47% and during the survey period 23% were using it. Due to the pandemic, 78.2% of CDs assumed new roles or had expanded responsibilities; 51% reported decreased scholarly productivity. Conclusions: Curricular adaptations occurred in IM clerkships across US medical schools as a result of COVID-19. More research is needed to explore the long-term implications of these changes on medical student education and clinical learning environments.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Internal Medicine