In the current situation of the COVID-19 pandemic, medical students across Germany have been recruited to support medical care professionals in hospitals and nursing homes. We aimed to analyze their motivations to help, their perceptions of stress and burden, and self-perceived acquisition of new skills.
We conducted a cross sectional online survey with standardized questionnaires (i.e. PSS, CDI, MtHQ) among medical students from May 29 to June 18, 2020.
Among 979 students (73% female, 27% male; mean age 24 ± 4 years), 75% proceeded with the online survey and 25% provided basis demographic data only (non-completer). Both groups did not significantly differ. Among the completer, 52% were / are already working as volunteers during the pandemic in different medical areas (i.e., 33% ICU, 16% infection ward, 16% emergency unit, 16% ‘normal’ units at hospital), 37% would have liked to work, but did not get an employment, and 21% did not intended to voluntarily support the hospital staff. 52% had contact to COVID-19 infected persons.
Those employed stated that in 64% they have learned collaborative skills, 51% communication skills, 49% practical abilities, 48% crisis management, 38% organizational skills, and 30% medical knowledge.
Their motivation to help (as measured with the 12 item MtHQ) was categorized as 1) Altruistic intentions (which scored highest), followed by Practical Application / Increase of Knowledge, and Role Testing / Recognition which scored lowest. Those who were employed as volunteers had significantly higher scores for Altruistic intentions (F=39.8, p<.0001) and Practical Application / Increase of Knowledge (F=17.6, p<.0001), but lower psychosomatic burden (F=10.8, p=.001) and stress perception (F=6.7, p=.010). Those who did not intend to voluntarily help had significantly lower motivations to help (F>27.0, p<.0001), higher stress perception (F=10.8, p=.001) and psychosomatic burden (F=16.2, p<.0001), but did not significantly differ with respect to compassion (F=2.0, n.s.).
Students who decided against a voluntary employment in hospital are not less compassionate, but seems to be more stressed and in fear than their helping counterparts. Nevertheless, their altruistic intentions were significantly lower. Employed students stated several abilities and skills they have learned because of this engagement.
Medical students´ intention to support health care professionals during the COVOID-19 pandemic were mostly altruistically motivated, but also to practically apply their current knowledge and to improve their skills and competences. This may have consequence for their medical education and future work as competent physicians.