TEACHING MUST GO ON: flexibility and advantages of peer assisted learning during the COVID-19 pandemic for undergraduate medical ultrasound education - perspective from the "sonoBYstudents" ultrasound group.GMS J Med Educ. 2021; 38(1):Doc5.GJ
Background: Facing the global COVID-19 pandemic University teaching has been digitalized and German medical faculties took great effort to offer curricular contents online as they agreed that semesters during pandemic should not be suspended. Skill training is an essential part of medical education and cannot be fully digitalized nor should it be omitted. The pandemic demonstrates that skills like ultrasound are essential when treating critical ill patients. Medical faculties use peer assisted learning (PAL) concepts to teach skills, like ultrasound through specially trained student tutors. Aim: Here, we would like to share our experiences and elaborate how ultrasound teaching can be safely performed during the pandemic with an emphasis on adjustment of an existing PAL teaching concept. Method: At the hospital of Saarland University, we implemented a PAL teaching concept for abdominal, including emergency, ultrasound, and echocardiography, called "sonoBYstudents" to teach sonography to undergraduate medical students. Students are generally taught in small groups of 5 people in 90min sessions over a time of 8 weeks with an objective structured clinical exam (OSCE) at the end of the course program. Each semester nearly 50 students are taught in abdominal and emergency ultrasound and 30 students in echocardiography. Over five years, more than 600 students have been taught with at least 30 students being trained as student tutors. Given the pandemic, course size, course interval and total course time and total course time were adapted to the hygienic precautions. Results: 45 and 30 students were taught in abdominal ultrasound and echocardiography respectively achieving their learning goals measured via OSCE at the end of the courses. OSCE results were the same when compared to previous semesters. Conclusion: PAL as a teaching concept lives out of sustained educational strategies like practical and didactical trainings and an ongoing recruitment of new student tutors. Suspending PAL and its skill teaching would require starting from the beginning which is a time and cost consuming process. With sonoBYstudents we were able to demonstrate that an existing PAL concept can, with some effort, be adjusted to changing teaching circumstances. Apart from this ultrasound is a non-omittable part of medical skill training with easily appliable hygienic precautions during teaching sessions.