What is the “New Normal” for Medical Residents?

By Emma Gaquin  |  July 9, 2020  |  COVID-19

Medical Trainees

In one United States hospital, a first-year resident cares for her patients in a non-COVID-19 ward. In the back of her mind she worries whether she disinfected her stethoscope enough or whether that cough she heard was due to allergies or something worse. She works 80 hours a week and drives home each night thinking about all that’s left undone.

COVID-19 has upended virtually every aspect of healthcare, including medical education. As the novel coronavirus expanded from a crisis to a pandemic, medical students adjusted to online learning from home. Residents and fellows were told to avoid direct patient care, got pulled into ERs and ICUs to treat COVID-19 patients, or saw clinical rotations canceled altogether.

These scenarios all affect the quality of residents’ and fellows’ medical education. As UC Davis School of Medicine professor Sharad Jain, MD, along with medical students Samya Faiq and Harveen Kaur Sekhon write for MedPage Today, when medical students have to avoid direct patient care activities, per Association of American Medical College’s interim guidance, “the profound consequences of this crisis on medical education and its future repercussions in the training of physicians must be considered.”

According to that guidance, in locations where there is “significant, active current or anticipated COVID-19 community spread,” and/or limited availability of PPE and/or COVID-19 testing, AAMC advises medical students not to participate in direct patient care—unless there is a strong need for healthcare workers in their community. Participation, AAMC says, should be voluntary.

While these measures were drafted to keep students safe, they create knowledge gaps that threaten to impact the future of medical care. The American Medical Association address this concern in its guide to restoring clinical rotations. In addition to curriculum modifications, it suggests simulations and longer post-clerkship phases.

Today, virtual case exercises, virtual rounds and virtual rotations replace “real life” evaluations. New electives that cover telemedicine and population health, for example, attempt to make up for experiences lost due to COVID-19.

Resuming Direct Patient Care after COVID-19

Now that elective surgeries have resumed in most U.S. states, residents have the opportunity to resume their chosen specialties. But it’s not that simple.

New residents worry about getting back into a clinical setting after months staring at a screen. What will it be like sitting face-to-face with a patient again?

Many simulation labs, which give residents their first experience with a scalpel, are not fully operational. Will residents get enough dress rehearsals before duty calls?

Final-year residents face another challenge: a shaky job market. Jobs lined up pre-pandemic may now be on hold. Start dates have been pushed back and contracts have shifted from full-time to part-time. In an uncertain time, residents face an uncertain future.

How K2P Can Help

As the world prepares for a “new normal” plagued by periodic spikes in COVID-19 infections, as well as future viruses, virtual training will likely replace much direct patient care for the indeterminate future. To ensure tomorrow’s physicians receive opportunities to succeed today, make sure they have advanced training at their fingertips.

K2P’s training programs enhance local GME content, providing segmented curriculum and assessments to align with rotations and weighted to the ABIM blueprint. Contemporary learning tools ensure today’s generation of learners.

Hospital staff can easily track students’ progress using a comprehensive dashboard. Watch their skills progress between ITE exams and throughout their rotations. If you notice an area of strength or weakness, you can communicate that information to your faculty to implement timely remediation.

Remote learning will likely play a key role in medical education for the foreseeable future. Equip your team with cutting-edge content that fits within everyone’s busy, unpredictable lifestyle.

Curious? Request a demo today.

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