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Impact on med ed

Updated July 2, 2020

COVID-19 has created uncertainty in many aspects of our lives and medical education is no different. Medical students have seen clinical rotations cancelled, coursework shift online and classmates graduate early and join the fight on the front lines. While this resource guide is not meant to be exhaustive, it provides information and resources to frequently asked questions. 

If you don't find an answer to your question within this guide, contact us.

Stories from medical students

AMA Chief Experience Officer, Todd Unger, recently spoke with two students about their experience during COVID-19 and the impact the virus has had on medical school education.

Read the transcript of their conversation, which is part of AMA's COVID-19 daily update video series.

FAQs: Impact of COVID-19 on medical education 

Q: Where can I get more information on what my classes and clerkships will look like next year?

A: This is an area that is presently being reviewed. As we receive information and further guidance, we will make sure to provide the information to you as quickly and easily as possible. We encourage you to contact your medical school’s student affairs office, in the meantime, for further guidance in this area.

The AMA Ed Hub™ is a great resource if you are looking to pursue self-paced learning virtually. The AMA Ed Hub has videos on a variety of topics, including COVID-19 specific courses. Specifically, “Deploying students in alternative roles during COVID-19” (PDF) may be helpful. Additionally, this information pertaining to “Clinical education and return to clerkships in the world of COVID-19” may also be of interest.

Q: How has COVID-19 impacted USMLE Step 1 and Step 2 testing?

A: Both NBME and USMLE have provided guidance on the impact of COVID-19 on testing. We recognize the information pertaining to USMLE Step 1 and Step 2 testing is fluid. We encourage you to also contact the office of student affairs at your medical school.

Q: How will COVID-19 impact the residency selection process?

A: Currently, the AAMC recommends a virtual approach to interviews at all levels. The AMA will provide further updates as we receive more information on how this process will be impacted in the future.

Q: How does this impact my student loans?

A: The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act provides broad relief for federal student loan borrowers. It allows for loan flexibility in the case of withdrawal and provides continued eligibility for those schools whose coursework was moved online. Additionally, if your financial circumstances have changed significantly due to COVID-19, you may be eligible for additional loans for the upcoming school year. Contact your medical school’s financial aid office for more information. Check the Federal Student Aid website for updates related to COVID-19 and more detailed information on forbearance information for students, borrowers and parents.

Q: I’m graduating soon and have a lot of questions about my new residency program. Is there information available to help with this transition?

A: Discussions about the start of residency programs are active. The AMA will do our best to keep you informed as this evolves. At present, the AMA has published a Residents and Fellows Bill of Rights that you can read for more information. Additionally, ACGME has provided guidelines. These guidelines discuss accreditation status and GME during the COVID-19 pandemic, provide ACGME guidance statements, FAQs, letters to the community and other organizational guidance.

If you’re looking for some general tips about starting and making the most of your residency, check out the AMA’s “How to be a good coachee” guide (PDF).

COVID-19 FAQs: Impact on medical education & students

Download the complete FAQs or contact us if you don't find an answer to your question within the guide.

Getting involved

Getting involved in the COVID-19 response 

In instances where students are being used on the front lines, the AMA reminds any organizations that intend to engage students in this way that they are still learners and they do need supervision and guidance.

Q: A lot of my classmates/colleagues are helping out with COVID-19. I’m trying to make the best choice for myself. Where can I explore my options for getting involved in the COVID-19 response?

A: There is a lot of pressure on medical students to jump into the fight against COVID-19, but it may not be the right decision for everyone. Some M4s are being given the option to graduate early. The AMA has published a guide on the way medical schools in COVID-19 hotspots have been utilizing early graduates. It is important that those medical students who are opting to graduate early to join the fight against COVID-19 are doing so voluntarily, and that they are fairly compensated for their time.

There are many additional opportunities for students who are not eligible for early graduation. You can find a list of initiatives at individual schools.

Volunteering may not be the right choice for you, and that’s okay. You should not feel pressured to perform any tasks that make you feel uncomfortable or that put you/your family at risk. It is also important to remember that your fellow classmates may have reasons for not participating that they do not feel comfortable sharing. This could include a family member with a suppressed immune system, or a medical condition of their own. Be aware of putting undue pressure on others to participate—you may not know the whole story.

Q: How is AMA supporting rights and responsibilities of medical students?

A: The AMA has focused its initial efforts on this topic to ensure that medical students are not put in dangerous situations. As noted in the AMA’s guiding principles to protect learners responding to COVID-19, “It is the responsibility of the AMA to support and protect medical students as we rely on them during this time.” Medical students should be free to make their own decisions about participation in direct patient care and should be included in conversations as different options for patient interaction are being discussed. If working in a clinical setting, medical students should be provided with appropriate PPE and be trained on how to use it.

For more information, refer to the guiding principles as well as recommendations from the AMA Code of Medical Ethics on graduating early to join the physician workforce.

Q: My campus/institution is not adhering to LCME/CME guidelines. Where can I turn to for help?

A: The ACGME, AAMC and LCME have all published guidelines regarding the proper treatment of medical students during the COVID-19 pandemic. The AMA is developing resources to help students advocate for themselves at the local level.

COVID-19 FAQs: Impact on medical education & students

Download the complete FAQs or contact us if you don't find an answer to your question within the guide.

Mental health & well-being

Mental health and well-being

Symptoms of depression, anxiety and psychological distress are being reported among medical students during this unprecedented time.

Q: Where can I find resources about mental health and wellness?

A: This is an uncertain time for all of us and it is important to prioritize our mental health and overall well-being. Take a walk, call a friend or family member, or just take time for yourself to listen to music, read a book or practice a hobby.

In addition to taking care of ourselves, now is a great time to check in on friends, classmates and loved ones. If there is a classmate or a colleague you haven’t heard from in a while, send a text or email to check in and say hello.

The AMA provides Headspace for free to all members, which is a great resource for practicing mindfulness. Sign up to access your membership. You can also check out Managing mental health during COVID-19 and a virtual art gallery with work submitted by medical students.

Q: I/my partner/someone in my family has tested positive for COVID-19. What should I do?

A: The most important consideration here is you or your family member getting the care they need to recover from COVID-19. If testing is available, make sure to get tested and quarantined for the appropriate amount of time. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has provided updated guidance on best practices if you’ve been exposed to patients with COVID-19 as well as guidance for returning to work for health care personnel with confirmed or suspected COVID-19.

If you or your loved one is quarantined, it is important to still feel connected to others. Reach out to friends and family members via text, email, or video chat while you or they are in quarantine. If possible, plan a virtual game night or find a way to raise spirits from a distance while in physical isolation.

Additionally, the AMA stresses the importance of caring for caregivers during this time. It is important for health systems and health care organizations to create and ensure an infrastructure and resources to protect all members of the care team. Find suggestions on best practices for protecting our health care workforce.

To help prevent infection in the first place the CDC offers guidance on interim infection prevention and control recommendations for patients with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 in health care settings.

COVID-19 FAQs: Impact on medical education & students

Download the complete FAQs or contact us if you don't find an answer to your question within the guide.

News & media coverage

COVID-19 FAQs: Impact on medical education & students

Download the complete FAQs or contact us if you don't find an answer to your question within the guide.