Getting Back to Medical Education Amidst COVID-19

Gerard Kiernan, MD, FAAFP, FHMEmergency Medicine, Family Medicine, Group Education, Internal Medicine, Nurse Practitioner, Nursing RN/PN, Pediatric Emergency Medicine, Pediatric Medicine, Personal Education, Physician Assistant, Product News, Urgent Care

Getting back to normalcy and continuing medical education amidst covid-19

Getting Back to Continuing Medical Education Amidst the COVID-19 Pandemic

I've been swamped by the pandemic, but I'm reclaiming a bit of normalcy by resuming my continuing medical education.

For the past month and a half, it seems like my hospital campus, including both the acute care hospital and outpatient clinic, have been transformed by the coronavirus pandemic. It has been an uncharacteristic mix of quiet hallways and exam rooms coupled with frenzied preparations for the anticipated surge of seriously ill patients.

We’ve had to reimagine how we do many things, and we’ve figured out novel ways to stay in touch with our patients, whether it is via phone or video encounters for many outpatient problems, or communicating through face shields, masks, gowns and respirators for our inpatients.  It is amazing how far we have come in such a short time. While we can debate, at length, the efficacy of our government’s and our leaders’ responses to the pandemic, we can agree that, at the bedside, on the patient care units, and on the phone, we’ve grown closer as teams of caregivers.

We have watched as, initially, our colleagues in China and Europe struggled with a deluge of the critically ill and many deaths, and then we watched as our American colleagues faced the same struggle. Our hospitals and our practices, like any business, have struggled with financial challenges and some have experienced furloughs. For too many American families, the pandemic has resulted in the deaths of family members, often without loved ones at the bedside.

At times, the stress and anxiety have been great, and we have shared with each other the challenges we have faced getting a good night’s sleep, worrying about our families, worrying about medical and economic uncertainty, and fearing for our own health.  One casualty of the pandemic has been routine. Our kids do not go to school for now, and teachers, students and parents have had the disorienting experience of switching to online education, teleconferences, and social distance.

Suspension of our routines has allowed us to critically reappraise our habits of driving, buying, consuming, and working. The air has been cleaner, and people are out on the streets, walking, greeting each other, happy to see another person after so much time indoors.

In the hospital, we have learned to work across disciplines to create new protocols, to scrounge and repurpose equipment, and to appreciate those often-overlooked team members such as the environmental services personnel who clean and disinfect our workspaces.

One immediate casualty of the first months of the pandemic has been my long-term habit of study and continuing medical education.

There was just too much stress and too much to be done.

Our practice was governed by ‘the tyranny of the urgent’. One of the great joys of being a health professional has been lifelong learning and growth, using high quality resources like Med-Challenger.

I’ve had to set aside my usual notions of how I learn, though, and it has been mostly experiential education for two months, and not the quiet time learning and reflecting.  Both the medical media and the lay media bombarded us with information, rumors, dubious therapies, hope, and lessons learned.

Getting back to a sense of normalcy sooner than later.

As I write this, in late April, at least here in New Hampshire, it seems like we’ve experienced the steepest part of the pandemic learning and adjustment curve and are settling into what appears to be the ‘new normal’. We are getting used to new routines in almost all facets of life.

Finally, I feel that, for me, it is time to get back to learning and studying, and not just trying to drink from the metaphorical firehose of Covid-19 information.

Our patients are starting to come back with the acute and chronic problems for which they postponed care, and I have welcomed the opportunity to re-engage with them and non-Covid-19 issues.

As the days settle into the new routine, I welcome the chance to log back into my Med-Challenger account and to test and expand my knowledge, focusing on the areas where I have the most room to grow.

I’ll take comfort in learning the current state of the art again, using resources carefully vetted to reflect the best evidence out there.  I’ll take comfort in learning how far we have come in treating so many disorders, and that I am staying current for my patients.

At some point, I’ll sit, with a cup of tea, and do board review questions regarding the coronavirus, and I’ll say to myself, “I know; I was there.”

About the Author

Gerard Kiernan, MD, FAAFP, FHM is a Dartmouth-Hitchcock Clinic hospitalist in Keene, NH. He attended the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry, followed by a Family Medicine residency at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, where he was a chief resident. Dr. Kiernan is a Lean Six Sigma Greenbelt and has led hospital medicine quality improvement efforts. He is a fellow of both the American Academy of Family Physicians and the Society of Hospital Medicine. He has achieved the Recognition of Focused Practice in Hospital Medicine offered through the AAFP and ABIM via their joint examination pathway.

Dr. Kiernan contributes to the Med-Challenger Medical Education Blog regularly.  His Clinical Pearls blogs are very popular and provide a case scenario, Q&A and a rich answer explanation. The Clinical Pearl blogs and other CME blogs are 100% free through Med-Challenger's Medical Education Blog.

If you would like to be notified of new medical education blog posts as they are published, please subscribe today.

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