COVID-19 Impact on Surgical Resident Education and Coping

J Surg Res. 2021 Feb 11;264:534-543. doi: 10.1016/j.jss.2021.01.017. Online ahead of print.

Abstract

Background: Healthcare systems and surgical residency training programs have been significantly affected by the novel coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic. A shelter-in-place and social distancing mandate went into effect in our county on March 16, 2020, considerably altering clinical and educational operations. Along with the suspension of elective procedures, resident academic curricula transitioned to an entirely virtual platform. We aimed to evaluate the impact of these modifications on surgical training and resident concerns about COVID-19.

Materials and methods: We surveyed residents and fellows from all eight surgical specialties at our institution regarding their COVID-19 experiences from March to May 2020. Residents completed the survey via a secure Qualtrics link. A total of 38 questions addressed demographic information and perspectives regarding the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on surgical training, education, and general coping during the pandemic.

Results: Of 256 eligible participants across surgical specialties, 146 completed the survey (57.0%). Junior residents comprised 43.6% (n = 61), compared to seniors 37.1% (n = 52) and fellows 19.3% (n = 27). Most participants, 97.9% (n = 138), anticipated being able to complete their academic year on time, and 75.2% (n = 100) perceived virtual learning to be the same as or better than in-person didactic sessions. Participants were most concerned about their ability to have sufficient knowledge and skills to care for patients with COVID-19, and the possibility of exposure to COVID-19.

Conclusions: Although COVID-19 impacted residents' overall teaching and clinical volume, residency programs may identify novel virtual opportunities to meet their educational and research milestones during these challenging times.

Keywords: COVID-19; Coronavirus; Medical education; Residency; Surgery; Virtual learning.