Learning Communities Engage Medical Students: A COVID-19 Virtual Conversation Series

Cureus. 2020 Aug 6;12(8):e9593. doi: 10.7759/cureus.9593.


Context Challenges to medical education have been pervasive during the COVID-19 pandemic, and medical students, in particular, have faced numerous obstacles as a result. One of the greatest losses for medical students was the inability to gather with their peers and a lost sense of community. The Learning Community (LC) program at Wayne State University School of Medicine (WSU SoM) expanded our offerings through the use of the Zoom platform to increase a sense of connectedness among medical students. The first initiative of its kind at WSU SoM, the Virtual Conversation series enabled students to share their pandemic challenges while also connecting with physicians on the COVID-19 frontlines. Students were offered eight online sessions with physicians and residents who were able to share insight regarding (1) how to succeed as a medical student on rotation during COVID-19, (2) potential implications of the pandemic on residency applications, (3) the utility of telemedicine, (4) tips for patient encounters, and (5) realities of serving as a physician during a global health crisis. Methods Residents and clinical physicians on the COVID-19 frontlines participated in 40-minute discussions with WSU SoM students through Zoom. Electronic Qualtrics surveys were distributed to medical student attendees of the Virtual Conversation series and responses were received via Likert scale, open text, and ranking questions. Results Qualtrics results demonstrated 55% of medical students (n=55) reported they learned new information about the COVID-19 pandemic from the perspective of physicians. Additionally, 62% of medical students described the Virtual Conversation series as 'extremely useful'. Conclusion The Virtual Conversation series emphasizing different medical aspects of COVID-19 provided a unique benefit to medical students' understanding of the current landscape of healthcare, the anticipation of their future roles as physicians, connectedness with their community, and opportunity to practice flexibility as they begin to apply online learning with real-world situations in the health system.

Keywords: covid-19; engagement; learning communities; medical students; virtual; zoom.