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Record Numbers Applying for Medical and Clinical Programs in Response to COVID-19

It has never been more apparent that physicians and other healthcare professionals play an essential role in people’s lives. The COVID-19 pandemic has reminded us all how dependent we are on the people who take care of us when we are not well. Even before the pandemic became the most important concern of the healthcare industry, organizations were thinking about using employee education to solve some big healthcare problems and figuring out ways to use staff education more effectively. Little did they know the entire U.S. healthcare industry was on the verge of a challenge unlike any that had been seen in a century. Every part of healthcare, including education within organizations and that preparing new clinicians, is likely to feel the impact.

COVID-19 Heroism May Be Inspiring a New Generation of MDs
For those considering entering the medical profession, the heroism and sacrifice of those on the caring frontlines, especially in the face of the coronavirus, is an inspiration. More applications for medical school are being submitted among those looking to find meaning and purpose in a care-focused career. The American Medical Association (AMA) tells us that when speaking as part of the AMA’s ‘Tribute to the Medical School Class of 2020,’ Anthony S. Fauci, MD, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said “Now more than ever we need your talent, your energy, your resolve and your character.” The same article adds, “It appears another flock of potential physicians may have been listening, however. With medical school applications up nearly 20% from last year, some are attributing that bounce to the ‘Fauci effect,’ in essence crediting the nation’s most famous and most visible physician with inspiring a new generation.” The AMA also cites the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), which has shared that “the number of students applying to enter medical school in 2021 is up 18% from this time last year.” Though the reason for the bump is not completely clear, chances are it is related to the unprecedented healthcare challenge happening globally.

An increase in those applying for medical school to become doctors could not come at a more opportune time. The same AMA web article tells readers that “according to data published this year by the AAMC, the United States could see an estimated shortage of between 54,100 and 139,000 physicians, including shortfalls in both primary and specialty care, by 2033.”

Specific Physician Specialties That May See Growth in Interest
An AMA-sponsored discussion about the growth in medical education interest includes what specialties may be getting the most attention. According to John Andrews, MD, vice president, graduate medical education innovations, AMA, “when you talk about the Fauci effect or the impact of COVID-19 on people's thinking about a career in medicine, I wonder whether we might see more people go into internal medicine, critical care, pulmonary medicine, the sorts of physician roles that have been featured in the news in the response to the pandemic.” He adds, “clearly there've been significant contributions made by public health officials and epidemiologists and people who play roles well beyond the direct care of patients. And I think we'll see a significant increase in interest in those areas, as well.”

A Similar Surge in Interest for Nursing
Similar inspiration may be driving the increased interest in nursing. According to CBS News in Virginia, “The University of Virginia's School of Nursing said it's seen a rise in applications for its programs.” The signs there about a surge in interest is compelling, from “more than twice as many early decision applicants this year compared to last year,” to growth in advanced nursing programs. The school also offers, “In our master’s program, we have increased by 27 percent. In our clinical nurse leader program, we've increased by 23 percent… in our post master’s program, we've seen an increase in applications by about 90 percent and much of that has been in the psychiatry, mental health nurse practitioner program." The same degree of enthusiasm is being seen in many parts of the U.S., including Texas, where NBC affiliate WCBD quotes the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center School of Nursing statement that, “In 2019, we had a little over 400 applications for that program… In 2020, we had over 900.”

Education Continues to Play a Vital Role in Improving Healthcare Outcomes
With all the unknowns in healthcare, one thing is certain—developing clinical skills will never decline in importance. Education will continue to play an important part in providing better care, especially continuing education for those already working in the field. HealthStream offers clinical development solutions because healthcare is always changing, and so are the skills necessary to achieve better outcomes.

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