Was There an Impact on the Work Quality of Newly Qualified Interns Who Had Online Studies During the COVID-19 Pandemic? - A Qualitative Study

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Background and Aims
The 2020-2021 global COVID-19 pandemic led to a complete shutdown in all sectors except for those related to essential facilities and medical services. All students reverted to the online approach to continue with their studies.
However, the medical program is largely hands-on in the clinical years and students are expected to master basic skills within an authentic health care facility. Thus, all stakeholders were concerned on how the online mode affected clinical students who were in their final 2 years of the program. This research aims to collect some information on the performance of these affected students who started their internship in 2021 and 2022.

This qualitative study was approved by Monash University Human Research Ethics Committee and funded by an educational grant from Monash University Malaysia. Convenient sampling with snow balling was used to recruit
the participants. The online interview was conducted using a semi structured questionnaire. Ten doctors who were involved with the training of interns in five different public hospitals in Malaysia were interviewed in 2022. The hourlong
interview was recorded, transcribed verbatim and thematically analysed using the NVivo software. The team of five researchers transcribed the first two interviews and reached a consensus for the codes. Subsequent interviews were conducted with an aim for the saturation of themes.

The participants (Male = 6, Female = 4) were from five different public hospitals. They held positions as medical officers, specialists and consultants. They were from different specialties (General Medicine [n = 4], General Surgery [n=2], Orthopaedic [n=1], Paediatrics [n=2] and Psychiatry [n=1]). Their clinical experience ranged from 3 to 30 years, and all had worked with interns in 2022.
There were some challenges with skills competency, but they were not concerned as these can improve with practice over time. Most agree that the work quality of interns has been on the decline in the last 10 years. There was no negative impact from the interns who had minimal or no hands-on training as students in 2020-2021. All agreed that there were no issues with the theoretical knowledge when compared with interns from the prepandemic
era. They commented that medicine is a lifelong career, and the interns can improve with regular practice over time. However, there was variable work quality observed in the interns’ professional behaviour, communication and handover skills and planning of their future career goals. The participants attributed this to the personality of the individual intern, rather than from the lack of hands-on activities during the pandemic.

This small qualitative study showed that there was no significant negative impact on the work quality of newly qualified interns whose studies were conducted wholly online during the COVID-19 pandemic. The work quality had been on the decline even before the pandemic and was attributed to the individual’s personality. Therefore, it would be appropriate to conduct a further study looking into this issue from the interns’ perspectives and explore ways to improve the observed deficiencies.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages2
Publication statusPublished - 22 May 2023
EventAsia Pacific Medical Education Conference 2023 - Singapore, Singapore
Duration: 22 May 202328 May 2023
Conference number: 20th


ConferenceAsia Pacific Medical Education Conference 2023
Abbreviated titleAPMEC 2023

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