Health profession students' outlooks on the medical profession during the COVID-19 pandemic: a global perspective

J Commun Healthc. 2024 Jul;17(2):154-168. doi: 10.1080/17538068.2023.2214391. Epub 2023 May 22.


Background: This article summarizes a global study of the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on junior health professions students' outlook on medicine. The pandemic has significantly affected health professions education. There is limited understanding of how students' pandemic experiences will affect them, and what impact these events may have on their career paths or the future of the professions. This information is important as it impacts the future of medicine.

Methods: In the Fall 2020 semester, 219 health professions students at 14 medical universities worldwide responded to the question: 'Has this experience (with COVID-19) changed your outlook on medicine as a profession?'. Short essay responses were semantically coded and organized into themes and subthemes using an inductive approach to thematic analysis.

Results: 145 responses were submitted. Themes were identified: (1) students reflected on the interaction between politics and healthcare; (2) reported becoming more aware of the societal expectations placed on healthcare professionals, including undertaking high risks and the sacrifices that healthcare professionals must make; (3) found reassurance from the recognized importance of healthcare professionals and expressed pride to be entering the profession; and (4) reflected on the current state of healthcare, including its limitations and future.

Conclusion: Most students, independent of the extent of the pandemic in their respective countries, noted a change in their outlook regarding medicine. An overall positive outlook was noted in most junior students. Educators need to work on nurturing these sentiments and attitudes to help young students maintain a healthy relationship towards their chosen profession.

Keywords: COVID-19; healthcare profession; medical profession; observation; students’ perceptions.

MeSH terms

  • Attitude of Health Personnel
  • COVID-19* / epidemiology
  • Career Choice
  • Female
  • Global Health
  • Health Occupations / education
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Pandemics*
  • SARS-CoV-2*
  • Students, Health Occupations / psychology
  • Students, Medical / psychology