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Medical students as health workers during the COVID-19 pandemic
  1. Adam Boggon1,2,
  2. Ashley Poole1,
  3. Sarah Smith3,
  4. Aine Burns3,4,
  5. Paul Dilworth1,3
  1. 1 University College London Medical School, London, UK
  2. 2 East London NHS Foundation Trust, London, UK
  3. 3 Royal Free Hospital, London, UK
  4. 4 Royal College of Physicians, London, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Adam Boggon, University College London Medical School, London WC1E 6DE, UK; adam.boggon{at}


Background We describe efforts at one tertiary university teaching hospital to rapidly recruit, train and deploy medical students into paid clinical support worker roles during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Methods Recruitment was conducted by means of a single email outlining the emergent clinical situation and specifying role descriptions, terms and conditions, and temporary staff enrolment paperwork. Applicants could begin work provided they were in good standing and received departmental orientation. Student representatives liaised with teaching faculty and participating departments. Roles were modified in response to student and departmental feedback.

Results Between 25 December 2020 and 9 March 2021, 189 students contributed 1335 shifts, providing 10 651 hours of clinical care in total. The median number of shifts worked per student was 6 (mean: 7; range: 1–35). Departmental leaders attested that the student workers eased the burden on hospital nursing teams.

Conclusion Medical students contributed usefully and safely to the provision of healthcare within well-defined and supervised clinical support worker roles. We propose a model of working which could be adapted in the event of future pandemics or major incidents. The pedagogical value to medical students of working in clinical support roles warrants closer evaluation.

  • COVID-19
  • clinical leadership
  • medical student
  • health system
  • recruitment

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  • Contributors ABoggon coordinated the outlined programme and devised and wrote the manuscript. AP contributed as a student representative to the outlined programme and contributed to the first draft of the manuscript. SS helped with administration of the outlined programme and sourced data for the manuscript. ABurns contributed to the design and development of the manuscript. PD supervised the outlined programme and reviewed and edited the manuscript.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Supplemental material This content has been supplied by the author(s). It has not been vetted by BMJ Publishing Group Limited (BMJ) and may not have been peer-reviewed. Any opinions or recommendations discussed are solely those of the author(s) and are not endorsed by BMJ. BMJ disclaims all liability and responsibility arising from any reliance placed on the content. Where the content includes any translated material, BMJ does not warrant the accuracy and reliability of the translations (including but not limited to local regulations, clinical guidelines, terminology, drug names and drug dosages), and is not responsible for any error and/or omissions arising from translation and adaptation or otherwise.