Medical student wellbeing during COVID-19: a qualitative study of challenges, coping strategies, and sources of support.

Medical student wellbeing during COVID-19: a qualitative study of challenges, coping strategies, and sources of support.

Publication date: Mar 28, 2024

Medical students face challenges to their mental wellbeing and have a high prevalence of mental health problems. During training, they are expected to develop strategies for dealing with stress. This study investigated factors medical students perceived as draining and replenishing during COVID-19, using the ‘coping reservoir’ model of wellbeing. In synchronous interactive pre-recorded webinars, 78 fourth-year medical students in the UK responded to reflective prompts. Participants wrote open-text comments on a Padlet site. Responses were analysed using reflexive thematic analysis. Analysis identified five themes. COVID-19 exacerbated academic pressures, while reducing the strategies available to cope with stress. Relational connections with family and friends were affected by the pandemic, leading to isolation and reliance on housemates for informal support. Relationships with patients were adversely affected by masks and telephone consultations, however attending placement was protective for some students’ wellbeing. Experiences of formal support were generally positive, but some students experienced attitudinal and practical barriers. This study used a novel methodology to elicit medical students’ reflections on their mental wellbeing during COVID-19. Our findings reinforce and extend the ‘coping reservoir’ model, increasing our understanding of factors that contribute to resilience or burnout. Many stressors that medical students typically face were exacerbated during COVID-19, and their access to coping strategies and support were restricted. The changes to relationships with family, friends, patients, and staff resulted in reduced support and isolation. Recognising the importance of relational connections upon medical students’ mental wellbeing can inform future support.

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Concepts Keywords
Academic COVID-19
Housemates Medical student
Pandemic Mental health
Webinars Mental wellbeing
Wellbeing Student doctor


Type Source Name
disease MESH COVID-19
disease IDO site
disease MESH burnout
drug DRUGBANK Etoperidone
pathway REACTOME Reproduction
drug DRUGBANK Isoxaflutole
disease MESH uncertainty
disease MESH death
disease MESH infection
disease VO population
drug DRUGBANK Tenoxicam
disease VO time
disease IDO process
disease VO effective
drug DRUGBANK Nimesulide
drug DRUGBANK Cysteamine
drug DRUGBANK Coenzyme M
disease MESH lifestyles
drug DRUGBANK Trihexyphenidyl
drug DRUGBANK Trestolone
disease VO report
drug DRUGBANK Methionine
drug DRUGBANK Medical air
drug DRUGBANK Ethanol
disease MESH loneliness
drug DRUGBANK Polyethylene glycol
drug DRUGBANK Spinosad
disease MESH psychological distress
disease IDO intervention
drug DRUGBANK Iron
disease MESH suicidal ideation
disease MESH causes

Original Article

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