Upskilling medical students to make a difference

Calvary Mater Newcastle has started a three-month trial of a new model to upskill our senior medical students and give them the ongoing training, support and experience they need to contribute to care during this pandemic period and meet their requirements for graduation.

The Embedded Senior Medical Student pilot program is the work of Clinical Dean Tim Walker and Director of Medical Services MaryAnn Ferreux and is a first in NSW.

“With the COVID-19 pandemic, we were facing a situation where medical students’ presence and roles in clinical placements was coming under increasing threat, and urgent change was needed to allow students to continue to learn clinically,” Tim said.

Under the three-month pilot program, 20 volunteer final-year medical students on placement at Calvary Mater Newcastle are being paired with willing Junior Medical Officers (JMOs). They will work in both clinical-team-based and after-hours roles within the hospital, learning alongside the JMOs as they participate in clinical care.

The students received a week of intensive clinical preparedness training, based upon the Local Health District’s longstanding intern preparedness program before starting the new placements.

“This included training on clinical assessment, procedures, critical situations, infection prevention, hospital systems and self-care,” Tim said.

“They have now been paired with our JMOs for 30 hours per week, assisting them with their duties around the hospital under close supervision. This will be supplemented by regular online learning, active mental and physical health monitoring, and mentoring support from the clinical faculty.

“The goal at the end of three months is to have senior medical students ready to transition towards graduation later in the year, and who might be suitable for employment in paid roles if the medical workforce shortfall becomes more acute later in 2020.”

The model is already being adapted for use by other hospitals across Hunter New England Health.