Medical Education Adapts to Pandemic

TonyaAs one of the premiere teaching hospitals in Michigan, Ascension Genesys attracts some of the top resident physicians in the country.

Tonya Van Order is the Director of Medical Education in charge of the residency program at Ascension Genesys, and was able to see first hand how the resident physicians rose to the challenge at the peak of the pandemic last spring.

“Our residents went above and beyond in providing excellent patient care in very difficult conditions,” she said. “They all stepped up to help where needed, even if outside of their specialty. They were teachable, showed remarkable teamwork, and I think they gained an even greater appreciation for the support they give each other.”

Usually, residents spend much of their clinical time within their preferred specialty, but due to the extreme needs of patients, both COVID and non-COVID, many residents gained greater experience in medical situations they wouldn’t normally encounter, which  Van Order stated would make them better caregivers in the future, and made the Medical Education department see the value of cross-specialty exposure.

The residency period can be a stressful and challenging time for new physicians in the best of times, and the COVID-19 environment only amplified that. Yet,  Van Order described how the Ascension Genesys residents put patient outcomes first, which meant they had to consider their own needs as well.

“It was remarkable to see them come together to advocate for themselves and their needs to be successful,” she explained. “They came to us and let us know what support they needed to be able to focus on their patients and deal with such an unexpected situation.”

Some images in this video were captured prior to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Despite their growth as physicians and caregivers, the COVID-19 pandemic did preclude some of the more normal aspects of the residency experience, including a traditional graduation ceremony. Instead, Ascension Genesys leadership and Medical Education program officers created a farewell congratulatory video to communicate the pride and confidence they have in the graduating class as they continue their medical careers.

Although the future of the pandemic is still uncertain,  Van Order and the Medical Education staff have already identified the needs they have to maintain the quality of the program, both in the current environment and into the post-COVID future.

“Space and technology,” she said. “We have wonderful facilities and technology here at Ascension Genesys, but it simply wasn’t developed for the kinds of constraints we have now.”

For example, social distancing requirements mean that having large groups of residents for lectures, meetings, or briefings will require several rooms instead of one, necessitating new or reconfigured communications/video technology, as well as more integrated personal technology (tablets, laptops, etc.).

“But as we make the necessary changes, it’s going to open up a new world of opportunities as well. We’ll have opportunities to learn and collaborate with people around the country and world even more than we do now,” she said.