Primary care placements in the post-COVID era: A qualitative evaluation of a final year undergraduate clerkship.
INTRODUCTION: In March 2020, UK primary care changed dramatically due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It now has a much greater reliance on triaging, e-consultations, remote consultations, online meetings and less home visits. Re-evaluating the nature and value of learning medicine in primary care has therefore become a priority. METHOD: 70 final-year medical students placed in 38 GP practices (primary care centres) across the East of England undertook a 5-week clerkship during November 2020. A sample of 10 students and 11 supervising general practitioners from 16 different GP practices were interviewed following the placement. Qualitative analysis was conducted to determine their perceptions regarding the nature and value of learning medicine in primary care now compared with prior to the pandemic. RESULTS: A variety of models of implementing supervised student consultations were identified. Although contact with patients was felt to be less than pre-pandemic placements, triaging systems appeared to have increased the educational value of each individual student-patient contact. Remote consultations were essential to achieving adequate case-mix and they conferred specific educational benefits. However, depending on how they were supervised, they could have the potential to decrease students' level of responsibility for patient care. CONCLUSIONS: Undergraduate primary care placements in the post-COVID era can still possess the educationally valuable attributes documented in the pre-pandemic literature. However, this is dependent on specific factors regarding their delivery.