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The Effect of COVID-19 on Internal Medicine Residents

By: Matthew Chan & Praveena Sivapalan

Objective: Determine the effect of COVID-19 on the education and wellness of PGY-1 internal medicine residents.

Introduction: The emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic in late 2019 has placed resident physicians in a unique circumstance where they must balance their duty towards patients, the preservation of their own health and wellness, and their educational needs. With many changes to the day-to-day structure on the medicine service, the maintenance of educational quality and wellness of residents has become a major concern. We predict PGY-1 internal medicine residents working during the COVID era spend significantly reduced amounts of time dedicated to academics relative to their total clinical duty hours.

Methods: 11 PGY-1 internal medicine residents on the Clinical Teaching Unit at the University of Saskatchewan from April to June 2020 were recruited. Participants recorded the total hours in hospital, and the amount of time in and out of hospital dedicated to educational activities over a 2-week period, compared to their respective estimate of hours prior to the COVID-19 era. The survey also collected information regarding satisfaction with program and health region responses, and elicited common concerns raised by residents. The primary outcome was the proportion of academic hours to total hospital hours per week.

Results: Residents spent a significantly reduced proportion of their total time in hospital on dedicated educational activities during the COVID era compared to prior (7.5% vs 15.6%, p<0.01). The absolute number of weekly educational hours was significantly lower (4.88 hours during COVID-19 vs 10.6 hours prior, p <0.05). Common themes include decreased focus on teaching, decreased motivation, and social isolation.

Conclusion: The COVID-19 pandemic and the changes it has necessitated have had a major impact on the education of PGY-1 internal medicine residents. Additionally, concerns regarding teaching quality, and decreased personal wellness are prevalent amongst learners during the pandemic.

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