Undergraduate healthcare students were mobilized to support healthcare systems during the COVID-19 pandemic, but we have scarce information regarding their experience and its impact on their wellbeing. An anonymous online survey was conducted among undergraduate students and recently graduated physicians of a medical university in Spain, regarding their symptoms and volunteering experience during the initial months of the Spanish COVID-19 pandemic. Respondents showed a high prevalence of perceived stress, anxiety, and depressive symptoms, measured by the PHQ-9 and GAD-7. 14.5% reported healthcare-related volunteering tasks. Volunteering was a satisfactory experience for most of the respondents and the majority felt ready to do volunteering tasks (66.6%). Yet, 16.6% acknowledged not getting appropriate specific-task education before starting, 20.8% reported not having appropriate supervision, and 33.3% feel they did not have proper protective equipment. More than half of volunteers feared getting infected, more than 70% feared infecting their relatives or friends, and 54.2% reported stigmatization. Volunteers showed significantly higher stress, anxiety, and depression scores than the rest of the respondents, and 32% reported a highly traumatic event during volunteering, with high scores on the IES-R in the 16% of volunteers. Our results should help guide future potential volunteering processes in emergencies, enhance academic programs at medical schools and provide valuable data for psychological support services.
Keywords: COVID-19; physicians; psychological impact; volunteering.