“You’re actually part of the team”: a qualitative study of a novel transitional role from medical student to doctor

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BMC Medical Education


Background: Optimizing transitions from final year of medical school and into first post graduate year has important implications for students, patients and the health care system. Student experiences during novel transitional roles can provide insights into potential opportunities for final year curricula. We explored the experiences of medical students in a novel transitional role and their ability to continue learning whilst working as part of a medical team. Methods: Novel transitional role for final year medical students were created in partnership by medical schools and state health departments in 2020 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and the need for a medical surge workforce. Final year medical students from an undergraduate entry medical school were employed as Assistants in Medicine (AiMs) in urban and regional hospitals. A qualitative study with semi-structured interviews at two time points was used to obtain experiences of the role from 26 AiMs. Transcripts were analyzed using deductive thematic analysis with Activity theory as a conceptual lens. Results: This unique role was defined by the objective of supporting the hospital team. Experiential learning opportunities in patient management were optimized when AiMs had opportunities to contribute meaningfully. Team structure and access to the key instrument, the electronic medical record, enabled participants to contribute meaningfully, whilst contractual arrangements and payments formalized the obligations to contribute. Conclusions: The experiential nature of the role was facilitated by organizational factors. Structuring teams to involve a dedicated medical assistant position with specific duties and access to the electronic medical record sufficient to complete duties are key to successful transitional roles. Both should be considered when designing transitional roles as placements for final year medical students.

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