Perceived effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on clinical psychology internships in Sweden

BMC Med Educ. 2023 Apr 17;23(1):249. doi: 10.1186/s12909-023-04236-x.


Background: The COVID-19 pandemic has had an unprecedented impact on societies and health care services worldwide, including the clinical training of psychology interns. Some of the pandemic-related restrictions were in breach of the internship requirements, increasing the risk of failed internships and a shortage of new health care professionals. This situation needed to be assessed.

Methods: Web-based surveys were administered to clinical psychology interns in Sweden 2020 (n = 267) and 2021 (n = 340), as well as to supervisors in 2020 (n = 240). The supervisors also provided information about their interns (n = 297).

Results: Risk factors for a prolonged internship, such as pandemic-related absence from work (12.4% in 2020 and 7.9% in 2021), unqualified work (0% in 2020, 3% in 2021), and change in internship content were low. However, remote interactions using digital services increased. Face-to-face patient contacts decreased significantly from 2020 to 2021 (Χ2 = 5.17, p = .023), while remote work and remote supervision increased significantly (Χ2 = 53.86, p < .001 and Χ2 = 8.88, p = .003, respectively). Still, the content in patient contacts and supervision was maintained. Most interns reported no difficulties with remote supervision or supervision in personal protective equipment. However, of the interns who reported difficulties, role-play and skills training in remote supervision were perceived as significantly harder (Χ2 = 28.67, p < .001) than in supervision using personal protective equipment.

Conclusions: The present study indicates that clinical training of psychology interns in Sweden could proceed despite a societal crisis. Results suggest that the psychology internship was flexible in the sense that it could be realized in combined face-to-face and remote formats without losing much of its value. However, the results also suggest that some skills may be harder to train in remote supervision.

Keywords: COVID-19; Internship; Pandemic; Psychologist; Supervision; Trainee.

MeSH terms

  • COVID-19* / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Internship and Residency*
  • Pandemics
  • Psychology, Clinical*
  • Sweden / epidemiology