Impacts on Surgery Resident Education at a First Wave COVID-19 Epicenter

J Med Educ Curric Dev. 2020 Nov 24:7:2382120520975022. doi: 10.1177/2382120520975022. eCollection 2020 Jan-Dec.


Purpose: This study aims to identify the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on surgical resident training and education at Danbury Hospital.

Methods: We conducted an observational study at a Western Connecticut hospital heavily affected by the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic to assess its effects on surgical residents, focusing on surgical education, clinical experience, and operative skills development. Objective data was available through recorded work hours, case logs, and formal didactics. In addition, we created an anonymous survey to assess resident perception of their residency experience during the pandemic.

Results: There are 22 surgical residents at our institution; all were included in the study. Resident weekly duty hours decreased by 23.9 hours with the majority of clinical time redirected to caring for COVID-19 patients. Independent studying increased by 1.6 hours (26.2%) while weekly didactics decreased by 2.1 hours (35.6%). The operative volume per resident decreased by 65.7% from 35.0 to 12.0 cases for the period of interest, with a disproportionately high effect on junior residents, who experienced a 76.2% decrease. Unsurprisingly, 70% of residents reported a negative effect of the pandemic on their surgical skills.

Conclusions: During the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, surgical residents' usual workflows changed dramatically, as much of their time was dedicated to the critical care of patients with COVID-19. However, the consequent opportunity cost was to surgery-specific training; there was a significant decrease in operative cases and time spent in surgical didactics, along with elevated concern about overall preparedness for their intended career.

Keywords: COVID-19; General surgery; resident education; training.