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Academic, clinical and personal experiences of undergraduate healthcare students during the COVID-19 pandemic: A prospective cohort study

McFadden, Sonyia; Guille, Sharon; Daly-Lynn, Jean; O’Neill, Brenda; Marley, Joanne; Hanratty, Catherine; Shepherd, Paul; Ramsey, Lucia; Breen, Cathal; Duffy, Orla; Jones, Andrea; Kerr, Daniel; Hughes, Ciara


Sonyia McFadden

Sharon Guille

Jean Daly-Lynn

Brenda O’Neill

Joanne Marley

Catherine Hanratty

Paul Shepherd

Lucia Ramsey

Orla Duffy

Andrea Jones

Daniel Kerr

Ciara Hughes


Coronavirus disease 2019 has impacted upon the role and safety of healthcare workers, with the potential to have a lasting effect on their wellbeing. Limited research has been conducted during previous pandemics exploring how student healthcare workers are impacted as they study and train for their professional careers.

The aim of the current study was to examine the specific impact of COVID-19 on the academic, clinical and personal experiences of healthcare students.

Undergraduate students across three year groups within the School of Health Sciences at Ulster University completed online Qualtrics surveys at three timepoints during one academic year (2020/2021). Quantitative survey data was downloaded from Qualtrics into SPSS Version 25 for descriptive analysis of each cross-sectional sample. Qualitative survey data was downloaded into text format, which was thematically analysed using content analysis.

412 students completed the survey at Time 1 (October 2020), n = 309 at Time 2 (December 2020) and n = 259 at Time 3 (April 2021). Academically, the pandemic had mostly a negative impact on the learning environment, the development of practical skills, the assessment process and opportunities for peer learning and support. Students reported increased stress and challenges managing their workload and maintaining a sense of motivation and routine. Clinically, they felt unprepared by the university for placement where the pandemic had an increasingly negative impact over time on learning and skill development. In terms of personal experiences, despite the majority of students taking steps to keep physically and mentally well, negative impacts on friendships, mental wellbeing and concerns for family were reported. The pandemic had not impacted upon career choice for most students.

Consideration must be given to the development of practical skills so students feel prepared for their professional careers given the practical nature of their roles. Programme coordinators should adopt a holistic approach to student wellbeing


McFadden, S., Guille, S., Daly-Lynn, J., O’Neill, B., Marley, J., Hanratty, C., Shepherd, P., Ramsey, L., Breen, C., Duffy, O., Jones, A., Kerr, D., & Hughes, C. (2022). Academic, clinical and personal experiences of undergraduate healthcare students during the COVID-19 pandemic: A prospective cohort study. PLOS ONE, 17(7), Article e0271873.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Jul 9, 2022
Online Publication Date Jul 27, 2022
Publication Date 2022
Deposit Date Nov 2, 2022
Publicly Available Date Nov 3, 2022
Journal PLOS ONE
Print ISSN 1932-6203
Publisher Public Library of Science
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 17
Issue 7
Article Number e0271873
Public URL


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