Nagihan Aydin ’21, Lily-Anna James ’21, Joseph Johnson ’21, Alexander Laurendeau ’23, and Erika Pitsker ‘21
Majors: Health Sciences and Psychology (Nagihan), Health Sciences (Lily-Anna), Psychology (Joseph), Biology (Alexander), and Health Sciences (Erika)
Minors: Biology (Lily-Anna), Health Sciences Research (Alexander), and Biology (Erika)
Affiliations: Athenaeum Honor Society and American Occupational Therapy Association (Nagihan), Honors College (Joseph and Erika)
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Kristin August, Associate Professor of Psychology
The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated existing stressors in the healthcare field, while also highlighting the current shortages of healthcare providers. The stressors experienced by healthcare providers in the current health crisis may influence pre-health students’ views of healthcare providers, the healthcare field, and ultimately, decisions to pursue a healthcare career. Additionally, socioeconomic and geographic inequities that currently make some students more interested in and competitive for health-related graduate programs may be magnified by the current pandemic. The objectives of this study were to understand how the current crisis and availability of vaccines has changed students’ current views of the healthcare field, their field of interest, and understand how their views of healthcare vary by race/ethnicity, socioeconomic status, and geographic location.
Methods: We conducted an online survey of pre-health undergraduate students from Rutgers University-Camden (current N = 109). Study measures included student and socioeconomic characteristics, views of the healthcare field, healthcare providers, and vaccines in the context of COVID-19. Data were analyzed using frequencies and chi-square analyses.
Results: A majority (82.9%) of participants were female and the majority (65.6%) were White. Most (51.5%) students indicated they were nursing majors. Interestingly, a majority (43.2%) of participants’ view of healthcare did not change due to the COVID-19 pandemic, with some (39.8%) indicating a more positive view. In a related vein, a majority (60.2%) of participants had a more positive view of healthcare providers. Somewhat surprisingly, a majority (48.9%) of participants’ interest in healthcare was unchanged. Further, a majority (44.3%) of participants indicated that the availability of the vaccine did not change their comfort level in working in healthcare. Although 54.5% plan to get the vaccine voluntarily and 13.6% are required to receive the vaccine for their jobs, there were racial/ethnic differences in vaccine plans (X2 (12, N = 64) = 24.68, p = .02).
Conclusions: Our preliminary findings suggest that students are either just as interested or more interested in healthcare careers in spite of the pandemic. How findings change with an increase in sample size and potential implications will be discussed.