COVID-19: Canadian medical students ready to step up

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Sylvie Bowden



On January 30, 2020 the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the 2019 novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak a Public Health Emergency of International Concern. By April 2, 2020, more than 1 million cases of COVID-19 has been confirmed. Shortages are being experienced around the world and due to inadequacies, physicians are being forced to decide who is more deserving of resources. In response, the world is making the effort to “flatten the curve” so that health care resources and facilities are able to accommodate. As such, the world has employed social distancing measures and encouraged people to stay home. COVID-19 has undoubtedly impacted the world in numerous ways and continues to do so. One such way is its impact on medical education. Medical schools across Canada have cancelled all in-person teaching, including classes and clinical placements. As clerkship rotations are purely clinical in a, this kind of learning cannot be replicated online, effectively leaving clerkship medical students with their education “on hold”. Despite no organized placement of medical students into roles, many have organized roles and initiatives for themselves. Medical students across Canada have volunteered in a variety of means, as well as joined together to develop and lead extraordinary initiatives. However, with an uncertainty in establishing an ‘end’ to the pandemic and in determining whether Canada will face a physician shortage, is it worth looking forward and further planning how best to utilize Canadian senior medical students? Medical education prepares students to not only care for the sick, but to function as part of a team and support a larger goal. With the unique skills to be able to assist and the national possibility of needing increased physician support, it may be worth considering how senior medical students can be transitioned into helpful roles in the hospital.