Background: The Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) has been placing severe strain on global healthcare systems and medical education programs, leading to growing demands for medical students to assume the role of preliminary healthcare providers.
Objectives: To assess the perception and attitudes of medical students about clinical clerkship training during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Design: A cross-sectional survey with web-based 3-fields/14-items questionnaire was conducted, from April 7 to 14, 2020, to evaluate their self-assessed perception and attitudes on clerkship training of hospital practice under the COVID-19 outbreak and spread among 161 (78 on pre-clerkship course, 83 on clinical clerkship course) medical students at Dankook University College of Medicine, Cheonan, Republic of Korea.
Results: Of the 151 medical students who completed the survey, 81 students (53.7%) considered themselves familiar with COVID-19. Although the students were concerned about the spread of the virus during clinical clerkship training, 118 (78.1%) students preferred the clerkship training in a hospital practice. The students in the clinical clerkship program preferred this over those in the pre-clerkship program (85.7% vs. 70.2%, P = 0.03), primarily because a clinical clerkship could not be replaced by an online class during the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition, their responses indicated, in order of significance, fear of not completing the clerkship course on time, willingness to participate as a preliminary healthcare provider in pandemic, the potential waste of tuition, and belief that a hospital is rather safe. The change in the academic calendar had not a positive impact on the lifestyles of many students.
Conclusions: In circumstances such as the COVID-19 pandemic, educational strategies to clinical clerkship training for medical students should be developed to provide them with the opportunity to be actively involved in hospital practice under strict safety guidance focused on preventing virus infection and transmission.
Keywords: COVID-19; attitudes; clinical clerkship; medical education; medical students; perception.