|LETTER TO THE EDITOR
|Ahead of print publication
Medical education in India during the COVID-19 pandemic
Rajesh K Kulkarni, Aarti A Kinikar
Department of Pediatrics, B.J. Government Medical College, Pune, Maharashtra, India
|Date of Submission||05-May-2020|
|Date of Decision||20-Jul-2020|
|Date of Acceptance||14-Aug-2020|
Rajesh K Kulkarni,
Department of Pediatrics, B.J. Government Medical College, Pune, Maharashtra
Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None
The emergence of COVID-19 pandemic and its rapid spread has the entire world focus on containing the contagion and reducing fatalities from it. One of the affected areas has been education, particularly medical education., This pandemic presents practical and logistical problems in delivering medical education. This article offers a brief overview of how the undergraduate and postgraduate education has been affected by the pandemic and the possible solutions to minimize its impact.
India is home to a large number of medical students. The Medical Council of India in 2019 overhauled undergraduate teaching in India with the focus on competency-based medical education (CBME) to produce a competent Indian Medical Graduate. Major changes are proposed in the teaching–learning methods and assessment. There is a focus on early clinical exposure and integrated teaching. The first batch of students has already been exposed to this new curriculum. With COVID-19 pandemic, there are likely to be challenges in implementing some of the components of CBME. Due to national lockdown, most universities and medical colleges across India have asked undergraduate students to stay at home. The concerns of the authorities in doing so are that social distancing would not be possible; there is a risk of COVID-19 to medical students and that medical students may unwittingly spread the infection during their rotations.
There are solutions to these problems. Online learning through webinars and lectures can be continued and indeed most medical colleges have already started implementing this. Large group in-person lectures have been replaced by streamed online lectures, using screen capture and online dissemination. Small group sessions and tutorials have been replaced with interactive webinars using web conferencing platforms. These learning resources are easily accessible through smartphones. Oral assessments could be conducted using online platforms. Revisiting older modalities and introducing new ways that accommodate distant engagement may need consideration, for example, structured viva, use of log books for assessment, virtual patients, and e-portfolios. During the severe acute respiratory syndrome epidemic in Hong Kong, some medical schools used online problem-based learning successfully. The same could be replicated in India.
Some medical students (particularly those in IIIrd MBBS Major) would like to help during the pandemic. Their help could be utilized in various ways like asking them to telephonically follow patients who suffer from chronic diseases, community education, manning helplines for citizen's queries on COVID-19, helping in patient care in non-COVID areas. This participation should be voluntary as it puts them at a mildly increased risk of exposure to the virus. Some universities in the United States have given the students an option to receive their degrees early.
Postgraduate students (particularly from clinical subjects) are at the forefront of fight against COVID-19. With the postponement of routine surgeries, surgical residents may lose hands on experience. On the other hand, residents from medicine and allied branches may expect higher workload of respiratory cases. Formal postgraduate teaching has been suspended at most medical colleges. Due to the increased workload on faculty and the postgraduate students and social distancing, even bedside teaching has been impacted to some extent. While there are no easy solutions to this, attending recorded and live clinics (e.g., postgraduate clinics of IAP, IMA webinars) may help to some extent.
Examinations are an important part of medical education. The university postgraduate examinations have been postponed by a month due to the current situation and it is possible that undergraduate examinations may be impacted. This may add to the anxiety and stress of the students. Counseling for admission to postgraduate courses first round has started and for the first time students have been given the option of online reporting by E-mail. To conclude, although COVID-19 has caused a short-term disruption in traditional medical teaching, we should take it as an opportunity to innovate and transform medical education by adopting e-learning.
Financial support and sponsorship
Conflicts of interest
There are no conflicts of interest.
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