Students in difficulty

Topic Editors:

Lead: John  Sandars, Edge Hill University Medical School UK

ContributorsPam Hagan,  Rakesh Patel, Anna Rosselli : University of Nottingham Medical School UK and Rachel Winter, University of Leicester Medical School, UK




A student in difficulty can be simply considered as when the demands of a situation are greater than the resources of the student for managing this situation. This definition highlights the complexity of trying to understand why a student is in difficulty and also how to effectively support the student.


  • Each student has a wide range of personal resources (cognitive, psychological, social and spiritual) and these can be considered as personal strengths. These strengths are highly individual and will vary from student to student but also within a particular student.

  • Transitions are common times for students to experience difficulties, with a wide range of situations from examinations to relationship breakups. The time of being a medical student also coincides with a major lifespan developmental stage.

  • Research provides useful information about common themes that can be used to inform support of students in difficulty.

  • Supporting students in difficulty should have a focus on enhancing individual strengths, both in response to the presentation of students for support but also in the implementation of pro-active approaches, such as the availability of personal development opportunities.

  • Taking a holistic view of supporting students in difficulty requires early identification by all members of the medical school (from teachers to administrators) but also ensuring that there is a wider awareness of modifying the potential impact of situations, such as the examination load for students.