Rapid Implementation of a Novel Embedded Senior Medical Student Program, as a Response to the Educational Challenges of COVID-19

  • Jennifer May University of Newcastle
  • Miriam Grotowski
  • Tim Walker
  • Brian Kelly
Keywords: Assistants in Medicine, COVID-19 impact, generalism, longitudinal placement, work-based assessment


As with many OECD countries, graduating medical students have been choosing specialist careers at a greater rate than ever before. Generalism in the form of family (general practice) and more generalist medical specialties have been trending down resulting in distributional geographic challenges. With the advent of COVID-19 in March 2020, medical schools and in particular the Joint Medical Program situated in a regional and rural area in NSW Australia had the unique opportunity to rethink the penultimate year curriculum when the previous rapid rotation model through numerous medical specialities became untenable. The need to vision a new practical pragmatic curriculum spurred a rapid revaluation of assessment, placement length and model with a pivot to an “embedded senior student placement” agnostic of discipline and supported by a competency-based learning portfolio. This article explores the barriers and enablers and identifies the potential elements of this type of placement which can be adapted to community and smaller rural sites. The positive student and supervisor experience also enabled an employment model to be woven into the students learning and ensured on hand medical student workforce for hospitals throughout the rural footprint. The capacity of these placements to celebrate variation in experience and support students to learn on the job have now caused a revision of the penultimate year with expectation of gains in students’ satisfaction and in employability. It has also opened up options to deliver and increase the inherent value of generalist placements with likely long term workforce benefit.

Author Biographies

Jennifer May, University of Newcastle

Professor Jennifer May

Betty Fyfe Chair of Rural Health

Director University of Newcastle Department of Rural Health


Miriam Grotowski

Dr Miriam Grotowski | Senior Lecturer Medicine
Faculty of Health and Medicine

Tim Walker

A/Prof Tim Walker

Clinical Dean, Calvary Mater Newcastle

Senior Staff Specialist (Gastroenterology and General Medicine)

Conjoint Associate Professor (University of Newcastle)

ORCID is https://orcid.org/0000-0001-7034-1327

Brian Kelly

Professor Brian Kelly

Head of School and Dean of Medicine – JMP
School of Medicine & Public Health
University of Newcastle & University of New England


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How to Cite
May, J., Grotowski, M., Walker, T., & Kelly, B. (2021). Rapid Implementation of a Novel Embedded Senior Medical Student Program, as a Response to the Educational Challenges of COVID-19. International Journal of Practice-Based Learning in Health and Social Care, 9(2), 63-73. https://doi.org/10.18552/ijpblhsc.v9i2.736