Surgical Residents in the Battle Against COVID-19

J Surg Educ. 2020 Jul 21;S1931-7204(20)30252-X. doi: 10.1016/j.jsurg.2020.07.018. Online ahead of print.


In times of public health crises, medical residency program leaders are responsible to maintain the wellbeing of their residents and ensure uninterrupted training. COVID-19 caused significant impact on healthcare industry, depleting resources and manpower, which led to disruption to graduate medical education and residency training. Surgical residents were affected by the pandemic both by reduced operative opportunities in most training centers and inducing stress and concerns about safety and wellbeing among residents. Spread of the SARS-Cov-2 was naturally accompanied with a gradual decrease in numbers of healthcare personnel which consequently increased the burden on residents. During these times of crisis and uncertainty, it is crucial that residency programs find alternative learning opportunities and deploy pre-designed, dynamic operational strategies to ensure high quality surgical services while optimizing resident safety and wellbeing. The COVID-19 crisis was a natural call for the essential need to add another dimension to residency competencies, which is Crisis-based learning and practice. Times of public health crisis are opportunities to reflect on the medical practice from an interdisciplinary and interprofessional perspective and train the residents to function as part of a larger, globally responsible team. It also calls upon adopting innovative instructional and learning strategies such as utilizing digital and online learning tools to complement learning. A holistic approach to the crisis was taken by the surgical residency program at the University of Illinois in Chicago, which addressed the issue from a resident, hospital, and public health standpoints. An operational strategy was introduced to optimize resident safety, maximize learning opportunities, support other non-surgical services, and promote online teaching and learning. This strategy is meant to serve as a dynamic reference for surgical residency programs and as an infrastructure for dealing with this and any upcoming healthcare crises in an efficient and resident-centered way.

Keywords: COVID-19; Crisis; Leadership; Operational strategy; Pandemic; Patient Care; Practice-Based Learning and Improvement; Resident safety; Resident well being; Surgical residency; Systems-Based Practice.