The U.S. now has more reported coronavirus cases than any country in the world, and hospitals and healthcare facilities are relying on healthcare workers like never before.
A 2019 report from the Future Health Workforce Commission estimates California alone will need to hire 4,100 more primary care physicians and 600,000 more home care workers over the next 10 years to address the staffing shortage, but as more healthcare workers get exposed to the coronavirus and are forced to stay home on leave, those projections could soon rise. Ryan Larkin, Chief Operating Officer for MDStaffers says they’re seeing a 20 to 30% increase in demand for temporary doctors during the coronavirus pandemic.
How graduating medical students are stepping in.
Typically, the months of April and May would mean downtime for fourth-year medical students about to graduate, but some medical schools have decided on an early graduation. New York University was the first school to do so, but others, including the University of Illinois School of Medicine Peoria are now considering doing the same thing.
While most hospitals and healthcare facilities aren’t allowing these newly minted doctors to treat patients, many are still fulfilling important roles.
Some pundits say that while these medical students aren’t yet practicing physicians, they have a wealth of knowledge and skills that can take the pressure off while we battle COVID-19. Before medical students graduate, they’ve already passed two of the three examinations required to be a board-certified physician. They’ve also worked in hospitals. This matters because fourth-year physicians-in-training are highly trained yet are an underutilized resource in a health crisis, per Scientific America.
The Annals of Internal Medicine reports that there is a precedent for this kind of involvement: “During the Spanish flu outbreak of 1918, medical students at the University of Pennsylvania cared for patients in the capacity of physicians.”
Alex Matelski is one student who chose to graduate early from University of Illinois School of Medicine. With his newly freed up schedule, Matelski has been coordinating student volunteer activities. One of his missions is to find patients who have recovered from coronavirus, so they can partake in the convalescent plasma donation.
A few other methods under consideration as a way for fourth-year medical students to address the COVID-19 pandemic are being put into action in some schools and facilities. These include:
- Allowing students to serve where they’re doing their residency earlier than planned.
- Assigning medical students to provide care in routine non-emergency scenarios and settings consistent with their completed level of training.
- Hiring medical students and categorizing them as temporary hospital employees, with placements specific to their completed level of training.
- Drafting medical students as part of a state health disaster response corps and deploying them temporarily to facilities where they’re needed.
Medical students are also helping public health officials by assisting with contact tracing.
Contact tracing is the process of identifying and informing people who have come in contact with an infected person so they can take precautions. Tom Frieden, the former director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, recently estimated that 300,000 contact tracers would be needed in the U.S. if we are to reopen the country safely, per STAT News.
Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has also volunteered to help develop the tracing program, coordinating downstate and tri-state testing and contact tracing. The state will work with the more than 35,000 students enrolled in medical-related programs who will serve as tracers, per US News.
What does all of this mean for physician recruiters?
Graduating residents are a gold mine for recruiters, and while COVID-19 might be changing what the typical medical school graduation to residency course looks like, it might also allow future graduating residents to bring an even greater wealth of experience to your positions in the near future.
Has the COVID-19 pandemic changed how you attract new candidates? Here are a few tips for sourcing and recruiting candidates right now. You can also view our Webinars Calendar to sign up for the many recruitment related webinars we host each month. You can also view past webinar recordings from the same page.