Examining the Effect of Virtual Learning on Canadian Pre-Clerkship Medical Student Well-Being During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Asaanth Sivajohan
Christopher Watling
Joshua Jesin
Majid Gasim
Nikita Ollen-Bittle
Soort article
Original Research
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Introduction: The restrictions of the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in the broad and abrupt incorporation of virtual/online learning into medical school curricula. While current literature explores the effectiveness and economic advantages of virtual curricula, robust literature surrounding the effect of virtual learning on medical student well-being is needed. This study aims to explore the effects of a predominantly virtual curriculum on pre-clerkship medical student well-being.

Methods: This study followed a constructivist grounded theory approach. During the 2020-2021 and 2021-2022 academic years, students in pre-clerkship medical studies at Western University in Canada were interviewed by medical student researchers over Zoom. Data was analyzed iteratively using constant comparison.

Results: We found that students experiencing virtual learning faced two key challenges: 1) virtual learning may be associated with an increased sense of social isolation, negatively affecting wellbeing, 2) virtual learning may impede or delay the development of trainees’ professional identity. With time, however, we found that many students were able to adapt by using protective coping strategies that enabled them to appreciate positive elements of online learning, such as its flexibility.

Discussion: When incorporating virtual learning into medical education, curriculum developers should prioritize optimizing existing and creating new ways for students to interact with both peers and faculty to strengthen medical student identity and combat feelings of social isolation.


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