The Pros, Cons, and Changes COVID-19 Brought to Fellowship Programs
COVID-19 has turned the world upside down. With businesses closed, new personal protection rules to abide by, and stay home orders across much of the world, life as we knew it was changed in an instant. As healthcare workers, each of these changes, plus the increased patient count, lack (or potential lack) of proper equipment, and quickly changing protocols, greatly affected our day to day lives.
With the need to quickly adjust to changing recommendations, APRN fellowship programs looked different over the past few months than they ever have before. As such, we wanted to facilitate a discussion about the changes seen in fellowship programs across the United States, some of the challenges of these changes, and ways to adjust to these changes moving forward.
Over the past few months, APGAP board members have seen a number of changes to fellowship programs at their institutions.
Most obviously, fellows were faced with a shift to virtual learning. In some hospitals, didactics were taken online as video lectures. Additionally, virtual hospital experiences were created with fellows splitting up to manage different floors. With the need for social distancing, hands on simulation centers were closed and simulations became online, discussion-based experiences.
In one hospital, senior fellows were taking virtual patient appointments, giving great experience in managing a patient’s care, but taking away the fellows ease of consulting with their mentor on tough cases.
Challenges & New Skills Learned
Virtual work led to some challenges faced by the fellows and the team managing the fellowship program. Some learning opportunities, like simulations, were missed while simulation centers needed to close down, but the biggest challenge reported was the lack of human interaction. In a stressful environment, such as one at a hospital that is overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients, the mental wellness of care providers is tested. Simple things, such as laughing with others, were missed.
Although there were challenges reported, there were also many positive outcomes. Fellows were given the unique opportunity to see and work directly inside the effects of a global pandemic. Their resilience, flexibility, and adaptability was challenged far beyond what any experiential simulator could provide, giving them a more diverse skillet than previous classes of fellows experienced.
We’d love to know more about the ways that COVID-19 changed the fellowship program at your hospital. Please comment below to share your experience.