The COVID-19 e-lective: using innovation to manage disrupted medical student clinical placements

Janie Dade Smith, Peter D. Jones*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

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The COVID-19 pandemic changed the way we work, spend, live, and learn. The impact was felt in the health sector where hospitals cancelled elective surgery, put on hold outpatient services, and implemented new social distancing procedures and telehealth systems, to enable hospitals to increase bed capacity. For medical students, these factors meant significant disruption to their clinical placements, remote delivery of their education, cessation of international and interstate placements, complicated by significant travel restrictions and border closures. There were concerns that final year students might be unable to graduate that year due to this lack of clinical exposure. 


As a result of this disruption in late March 2020 we developed an innovative 6 week ‘COVID-19 e-lective’ rotation, consisting of online modules, virtual clinical tutorials and a COVID project totalling the equivalent of 200 h of work. 


An evaluation was undertaken that found it to be remarkably successful in meeting the students’ learning needs and alleviating concerns about disrupted placements. It was also conducted during 2021 for all Year 4 students to help expand clinical placement opportunities. 


This paper describes the e-lective, its innovations, its challenges, and its evaluation findings, for others to learn from.

Original languageEnglish
Article number92
Pages (from-to)1-7
Number of pages7
JournalBMC Medical Education
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2023


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