Tips for Welcoming Students Back to Clinic in a Pandemic World

Many medical students felt a sense of loss when they were deemed non-essential and pulled from clinical environments. It is important to welcome them back into the fold of clinical care enthusiastically and personally. These tips will help you help them make the transition back into the clinic.

Tip #1. Welcome Students  
Very basic things can help students feel welcome. Learn their names and use them each time you introduce them to patients. Walk around your clinical environment with your new student and introduce them to your colleagues. Small steps like these can help our students feel like they are once again part of the team.

Tip #2: Orient to New COVID-19 Practices
Medicine has changed dramatically since your students were last in clinical environments. Although practicing physicians are settling into new routines, your students likely know little about what has changed in terms of general practices and procedures in healthcare settings. Take some time to clearly discuss with your students the expectations around the care of COVID-19 patients and what your clinical setting is doing to protect healthcare workers. For example, how should students help conserve PPE? Does your clinic require universal masking, and, if so, how is this practically implemented day-by-day? Learn the medical school’s recommendations around patient care for suspected or confirmed COVID-19 patients and discuss these clearly with your learner before you start. Be sure to think about how your clinic is using telemedicine and if learners might interact with this newly expanded way of providing patient care.

Tip #3: Set Goals for Sessions by Starting Small
Many students are re-entering the clinical environment after weeks or months away, and they might feel very rusty in their clinical skills. Clearly discuss that you are aware of this and that your expectations for students take this reality into consideration. During the first days-to-weeks back, help your students set realistic and achievable learning goals as they settle back into clinical environments. Using the1-Minute Preceptoris a great way to get started, with a follow up with the student after the clinic session to see if they achieved their goals. Clear feedback at this time will help everyone calibrate expectations.

Bonus Tip
Share your experience being a physician during this unprecedented time. All the people in the entire health care system have undergone—and are still experiencing—a profound stress. This has impacted each person differently. Help your studentby discussing how you balance personal vs. professional concerns, how you interface with colleagues to support one another, and how this might have changed your relationships with patients.

More About Welcoming Students Back

Visit the Orienting a Learner section for more information about integrating a student into your clinical workflow and assigning responsibilities.