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 Table of Contents  
Year : 2021  |  Volume : 34  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 86-87

Maintaining patient participation in medical education in the context of a pandemic

1 Mayo Medical Academy, School of Medicine, National University of Ireland, Galway, Ireland
2 Galway University Hospital, Galway, Ireland
3 Mayo University Hospital, Mayo Medical Academy, Galway, Ireland

Date of Submission22-Nov-2020
Date of Decision04-Aug-2020
Date of Acceptance08-Nov-2021
Date of Web Publication21-Dec-2021

Correspondence Address:
Gillian Chambers
Mayo Medical Academy, School of Medicine, National University of Ireland, Galway
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/efh.EfH_307_19

How to cite this article:
Chambers G, McDermott D, Kearns A, Bhuinneain MN. Maintaining patient participation in medical education in the context of a pandemic. Educ Health 2021;34:86-7

How to cite this URL:
Chambers G, McDermott D, Kearns A, Bhuinneain MN. Maintaining patient participation in medical education in the context of a pandemic. Educ Health [serial online] 2021 [cited 2022 Jan 22];34:86-7. Available from:

Dear Editor,

Tessa Richards and Henry Scowcroft[1] posit that the requirement for rapid medical decision-making in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic has led to the abandonment of “statutory policy commitments to the patient and public involvement and shared decision-making in health systems.” The 2019 Association for Medical Education in Europe conference in Vienna hosted a very powerful plenary session on the theme of patient involvement in education titled –”Call to Action: Patients as Partners in Healthcare Professions Education and Practice.” The clear message from the contributors was that patients need to have a greater role in the planning and delivery of all facets of healthcare provision, including the education of healthcare professionals. Jha et al.[2] have stated that patients, currently, do not appear to have much involvement behind the scenes in curriculum planning, formal assessment, or education policy development. The disruption that the pandemic has brought to health and education systems has exacerbated this by requiring clinical interaction between students and patients to be curtailed or suspended. The requirement to rapidly pivot to online medical education has also placed structured patient involvement in medical education in jeopardy, which is to the detriment of both students and patients alike.

Kellyand Wykurz[3] discuss how students participating in a “Patients as Partners” program, reported increased respect for patients, with increased understanding of patients' rights, circumstances and lifestyles, as well as an improvement in the students' communication skills. Patients also derived benefits such as feeling greater empowerment and confidence in their interactions with doctors following their experience of active involvement in medical education. These sentiments were echoed by many Patient Experience Advisors in a qualitative study our institution carried out exploring the perspectives of a group of volunteer Patient Experience Advisors on how they could be more formally involved in medical education. The patient advisors all stated that good communication skills, empathy, and compassion were proficiencies that they valued as highly as medical knowledge from their treating clinicians.

Medical educators are experienced in preparing medical students for their future clinical functions using the cognitive and psychomotor domains of learning but addressing the affective domain can be more challenging. We know that patients are already successfully schooling health professional students on the emotional, psychological, financial, and social impacts of their illness, but this is often in an informal ad hoc manner.

The challenge for educators is to move patient involvement from passive roles to a more formal active contribution in the education of doctors in training. This is even more important now that real patient contact during the pandemic is severely limited. Jackson and Descoteaux[4] argue in their BMJ Blog that “Online teaching of medical students by patients during COVID-19 is set to become the new norm.” As we stare into the face of another wave of the pandemic, medical educators must endeavor to preserve patient partnerships in education and create technology-assisted learning opportunities when in-person patient delivered workshops are not possible.

Financial support and sponsorship

Our study referenced in the letter was supported in part by funding to one of the lead researchers who received a School of Medicine Summer Research Scholarship.

Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.

  References Top

Richards T, Scowcroft H. Patient and public involvement in covid-19 policy making BMJ 2020; 370:m2575 doi: 10.1136/bmj.m2575  Back to cited text no. 1
Jha V, Quinton ND, Bekker HL, Roberts TE. Strategies and interventions for the involvement of real patients in medical education: A systematic review. Med Educ 2009;43:10-20.  Back to cited text no. 2
Kelly D, Wykurz G. Patients as teachers: A new perspective in medical education. Educ Health 1998;11:369-77.  Back to cited text no. 3
Jackson M, Descoteaux A. COVID-19 and Medical Education: Patients' Teaching Role Moves Online. BMJ Blogs; 2020. Available from: [Last accessed 2020 Sep 30].  Back to cited text no. 4


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