Coronavirus (1482) Health worker education during the COVID-19 pandemic

1 March, 2023

Citation and abstract of a new paper in the journal Human Resources for Health. The impact on mental health appears to be huge. How are young trainees fairing now?

CITATION: Health worker education during the COVID-19 pandemic: global disruption, responses and lessons for the future—a systematic review and meta-analysis

Aikaterini Dedeilia, Michail Papapanou, Andreas N. Papadopoulos, Nina-Rafailia Karela, Anastasia Androutsou, Dimitra Mitsopoulou, Melina Nikolakea, Christos Konstantinidis, Manthia Papageorgakopoulou, Michail Sideris, Elizabeth O. Johnson, Siobhan Fitzpatrick, Giorgio Cometto, Jim Campbell & Marinos G. Sotiropoulos

Human Resources for Health volume 21, Article number: 13 (2023)


Background: This systematic review and meta-analysis identified early evidence quantifying the disruption to the education of health workers by the COVID-19 pandemic, ensuing policy responses and their outcomes.

Methods: Following a pre-registered protocol and PRISMA/AMSTAR-2 guidelines, we systematically screened MEDLINE, EMBASE, Web of Science, CENTRAL, and Google Scholar from January 2020 to July 2022. We pooled proportion estimates via random-effects meta-analyses and explored subgroup differences by gender, occupational group, training stage, WHO regions/continents, and study end-year. We assessed risk of bias (Newcastle–Ottawa scale for observational studies, RοB2 for randomized controlled trials [RCT]) and rated evidence certainty using GRADE.

Results: Of the 171 489 publications screened, 2 249 were eligible, incorporating 2 212 observational studies and 37 RCTs, representing feedback from 1 109 818 learners and 22 204 faculty. The sample mostly consisted of undergraduates, medical doctors, and studies from institutions in Asia. Perceived training disruption was estimated at 71.1% (95% confidence interval 67.9–74.2) and learner redeployment at 29.2% (25.3–33.2). About one in three learners screened positive for anxiety (32.3%, 28.5–36.2), depression (32.0%, 27.9–36.2), burnout (38.8%, 33.4–44.3) or insomnia (30.9%, 20.8–41.9). Policy responses included shifting to online learning, innovations in assessment, COVID-19-specific courses, volunteerism, and measures for learner safety. For outcomes of policy responses, most of the literature related to perceptions and preferences. More than two-thirds of learners (75.9%, 74.2–77.7) were satisfied with online learning (postgraduates more than undergraduates), while faculty satisfaction rate was slightly lower (71.8%, 66.7–76.7). Learners preferred an in-person component: blended learning 56.0% (51.2–60.7), face-to-face 48.8% (45.4–52.1), and online-only 32.0% (29.3–34.8). They supported continuation of the virtual format as part of a blended system (68.1%, 64.6–71.5). Subgroup differences provided valuable insights despite not resolving the considerable heterogeneity. All outcomes were assessed as very-low-certainty evidence.

Conclusion: The COVID-19 pandemic has severely disrupted health worker education, inflicting a substantial mental health burden on learners. Its impacts on career choices, volunteerism, pedagogical approaches and mental health of learners have implications for educational design, measures to protect and support learners, faculty and health workers, and workforce planning. Online learning may achieve learner satisfaction as part of a short-term solution or integrated into a blended model in the post-pandemic future.

Coordinator, HIFA project on COVID-19, supported by University of Edinburgh

HIFA profile: Neil Pakenham-Walsh is coordinator of HIFA (Healthcare Information For All), a global health community that brings all stakeholders together around the shared goal of universal access to reliable healthcare information. HIFA has 20,000 members in 180 countries, interacting in four languages and representing all parts of the global evidence ecosystem. HIFA is administered by Global Healthcare Information Network, a UK-based nonprofit in official relations with the World Health Organization. Email: