10,000 Med School Graduates in Italy Skip Final Exam, Get Sent Directly Into Health Service to Help Fight COVID-19

Medical students in Italy will have their final exams scrapped in a government bid to ease the pressure on a health service struggling under the strain of dealing with the coronavirus.

In Europe's worst-hit country from the pandemic, university minister Gaetano Manfredi said this year's graduates could get a nine-month head start in working in the health sector, with their mandatory exams before qualifying, being waived, Reuters reported.

"This means immediately releasing into the National Health System the energy of about 10,000 doctors, which is fundamental to dealing with the shortage that our country is suffering," he said in a statement.

Because they lack the training to be at the frontline of the coronavirus emergency, the students will not be dispensing treatment to those seriously ill. However, they will be called upon to help with triage, carry out tests, evaluate any suspected cases and offer support in general practitioners' clinics, the newspaper Il Messaggero reported.

Italy hospital
A doctor is pictured at at the Casal Palocco hospital near Rome. Medical students in Italy will be able to skip their final exams to help hospitals deal with the coronovirus pandemic. ANDREAS SOLARO/Getty Images

This will free up more experienced medical professionals to work at the hospitals which are filling up fast.

The northern Lombardy region has been the country's hardest hit, with more than 1,100 people needing intensive care, 300 more than the number of intensive care beds available, according to Giacomo Grasselli, head of the intensive care unit at Milan's Policlinico hospital.

Ireland will also draw on medical graduates to ease pressure on its health services facing strain.

The Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI) has brought forward final exams by six weeks, allowing 1,300 people to graduate early from the country's six schools of medicines, with a proportion of them being able to work in the health service by April, The Irish Times reported.

In the U.K., the Medical Schools Council [MSC] has called for staff and students at medical schools and university departments to be brought in to help the National Health Service [NHS] with the crisis, The Guardian reported.

The MSC said students in their final year should be provisionally registered even if they have missed clinical exams so they can start working straight away.

With campuses in the U.S. closing, medical student Sathvik Namburar wrote in a USA Today op-ed that students should not be sent home, but deployed across the country.

Namburar said that even if students cannot care for patients on their own, they can help by taking patient histories, performing basic exams on patients and provide comfort.

"We may be needed sooner than we once expected. We are ready to help."

World Health Organization advice for avoiding spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19)

Hygiene advice

  • Clean hands frequently with soap and water, or alcohol-based hand rub.
  • Wash hands after coughing or sneezing; when caring for the sick; before; during and after food preparation; before eating; after using the toilet; when hands are visibly dirty; and after handling animals or waste.
  • Maintain at least 1 meter (3 feet) distance from anyone who is coughing or sneezing.
  • Avoid touching your hands, nose and mouth. Do not spit in public.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or bent elbow when coughing or sneezing. Discard the tissue immediately and clean your hands.

Medical advice

  • If you feel unwell (fever, cough, difficulty breathing) seek medical care early and call local health authorities in advance.
  • Stay up to date on COVID-19 developments issued by health authorities and follow their guidance.

Mask usage

  • Healthy individuals only need to wear a mask if taking care of a sick person.
  • Wear a mask if you are coughing or sneezing. Masks are effective when used in combination with frequent hand cleaning.
  • Do not touch the mask while wearing it. Clean hands if you touch the mask.
  • Learn how to properly put on, remove and dispose of masks. Clean hands after disposing of the mask.
  • Do not reuse single-use masks.