Medical students across the country, at institutions like Harvard University, New York University and the University of Kansas, are being permitted to graduate early to aid in the fight against COVID-19. Other students may be asked to help in patient care as part of their studies. The American Medical Association has now released guidance for medical schools and health systems on the involvement of medical students and early graduates.
"There are many opportunities for students to contribute to the clinical care of patients without engaging in direct physical contact with patients," an introduction to the guidance reads. "However, in some institutions the workforce demands may be great enough that it is appropriate to consider including medical students in direct patient care."
Among other recommendations, the AMA advises institutions to allow students to freely choose whether they would like to be involved in direct patient care, without incentives or coercion. Medical students should be given proper personal protective equipment and training on how to use it. Medical students should not be financially responsible for their own diagnosis and treatment of COVID-19 should they become sick from school-approved activities, the association said.
For institutions with early graduation options for medical students to aid in the pandemic, the association stresses that the option should be enacted on a voluntary basis and be founded on achievement of core competencies. Institutions should not compel students to begin their matched residencies earlier than originally intended and should grant graduates full status as employees with appropriate salaries and benefits, the organization advised.