Building a Successful, Socially-Distanced Family Medicine Clerkship in the COVID Crisis

PRiMER. 2020 Nov 4;4:34. doi: 10.22454/PRiMER.2020.755864. eCollection 2020.


Introduction: In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, many family medicine clerkships across the United States are scrambling to provide meaningful medical education in a new clinical environment. Most medical schools have paused or severely limited the direct patient care that has been the core educational requirement of the clinical clerkships. The aim of this study was to develop and evaluate a curricular model that meets the family medicine clerkship learning objectives via telemedicine clinical instruction.

Methods: We created a clerkship where all clinical encounters took place by phone or video visits. Students were required to have telemedicine encounters with at least 20 patients over a 4-week clerkship. We also created a telemedicine illness script-writing assignment to prepare students and faculty for these encounters. We evaluated our curriculum by surveying participating students and faculty members.

Results: Student surveys revealed that all learning objectives were met during the telemedicine clerkship experience. Students felt they made a difference during the COVID-19 pandemic. Faculty felt that the medical students were helpful and that they were able to provide meaningful clinical instruction.

Conclusion: Our study reveals that a family medicine clerkship can be successfully delivered using telemedicine and remote learning techniques. Senior medical students are a valuable resource and can have a meaningful clinical impact while learning more about family medicine. If social distancing precautions continue, this model can be used by other clerkships to continue medical education and provide medical care.