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COVID-19: Updated Guidance for Medical Students’ Roles in Direct Patient Care

April 14, 2020

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John Buarotti, Sr. Media Relations Specialist

AAMC (Association of American Medical Colleges) Chief Medical Education Officer Alison J. Whelan, MD, issued the following statement on updated guidelines for medical schools regarding medical student participation in patient care activities during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak:

“The AAMC has issued updated guidance for medical students’ participation in direct patient care during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.  

For medical schools in locales with significant, active current or anticipated COVID-19 community spread and/or limited availability of PPE and/or limited availability of COVID-19 testing, the AAMC continues to strongly support pausing all medical student participation in activities that involve direct patient contact.  In this COVID-19 pandemic, the AAMC’s guidance continues to be based on public health considerations, PPE needs, and COVID-19 testing availability. We acknowledge that this currently includes nearly every AAMC-member medical school.

The AAMC’s guidance also provides new considerations for medical schools pertaining to the participation of medical students in direct patient contact activities as part of their required clerkships or other required clinical experiences in the MD-degree program core curriculum. These locale-based considerations are in anticipation of when there is not significant, active current or anticipated COVID-19 community spread AND when both PPE and COVID-19 testing become readily available locally. The AAMC recommends medical schools ensure that (1) reasonable safeguards are in place to minimize medical students’ risk of contracting COVID-19, and (2) medical student participation in these required clinical experiences should align with the school’s educational program objectives.

Today’s guidance is intended to add to, but not supersede, an academic medical center’s independent judgment of the immediate needs of its patients and preparation of its students. The COVID-19 situation remains fluid and may change frequently and rapidly on a local basis. Medical schools, with their clinical partners’ knowledge and input, should carefully evaluate their local situation on a regular basis to make determinations about their medical students’ participation in direct patient contact activities.

The AAMC remains strongly committed to working with medical schools to minimize negative impacts on students and to supporting schools in making necessary curricular adjustments. We must all continue to work together to rise to the challenge of this unprecedented pandemic. We will continue to update our guidance as the situation evolves.”

The guidance is available here. The April 14 guidance is meant to update and replace earlier recommendations issued by the AAMC on March 17, March 23, and March 30.  

The Association of American Medical Colleges is a not-for-profit association dedicated to transforming health care through innovative medical education, cutting-edge patient care, and groundbreaking medical research. Its members comprise all 155 accredited U.S. and 17 accredited Canadian medical schools; nearly 400 major teaching hospitals and health systems, including 51 Department of Veterans Affairs medical centers; and more than 80 academic societies. Through these institutions and organizations, the AAMC serves the leaders of America’s medical schools and teaching hospitals and their 173,000 faculty members, 89,000 medical students, 129,000 resident physicians, and more than 60,000 graduate students and postdoctoral researchers in the biomedical sciences. Additional information about the AAMC and its member medical schools and teaching hospitals is available at

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