With my blog this week I want to reach out in particular to our learners with some words of support.
As well, I want to share how our learners in different programs and years are continuing with their education and training.
So first, some words to our learners: the college, and our leaders and staff in your respective programs appreciate your patience and commitment in adjusting to the many changes in education delivery caused by COVID-19. We know you have many questions and we have received many of those from you; CoM leaders, faculty and staff are working very hard to provide answers where we have them, and support you in various ways. We all need to hang in there, continue to stay connected in safe ways, and help one another out with understanding and patience.
As you know, the primary effort for all of us right now is the one we are each making to protect our health and that of others. That does not mean all else stops, and in as many ways as safe and reasonable, we continue to move ahead. Our college is committed to advancing learners through their programs in a safe manner; this work is more important than ever.
Second, what is happening with our learners now?
Our programs and offices are in contact with students, responding to inquiries and providing updates. Leaders in our School of Rehabilitation Sciences, graduate studies, undergraduate and postgraduate medical education offices, at our Regina campus and other sites, and in all our departments are maintaining connections with their respective learners, answering questions and providing support. As we learn new ways to do so, we are working to maintain and bring normality to how we connect with learners.
Medical education learners – undergraduate
Our approach to the undergraduate medical education program during COVID-19 is based on three principles: learner well-being; completion of education/clerkship and graduation on time; and public health obligations.
Our Year 4 MD students have completed their clinical work and will graduate on June 4, 2020. They will join residency programs as usual, with about half staying in Saskatchewan programs and the rest joining programs in other provinces across the country.
Our Year 3 MD students are in a particularly challenging time, as they have had to step away from clinical learning since March 16. They will return to complete Year 3 when conditions are improved both in terms of safety and availability of a broad range of clinical learning experiences. Right now, we don’t know when that will be, and recognize how difficult this uncertainty is for these students. In the interim, we have begun planning for how this return of Year 3 students to clinical learning can best be managed, the starting point for charting a path toward successful completion of Year 3 and developing a plan for Year 4 for the MD Class of 2021.
Year 1 and 2 MD students are currently participating in lectures and completing assessments remotely, and participating in small group sessions through videoconferencing. Their Clinical Skills courses have been postponed for reasons of safety and availability of learning experiences, and course leaders are working on redesigning these courses for later delivery.
We have begun holding regular virtual town halls with our undergraduate medical students and will continue to do so, and are in close contact with student leaders. Our Office of Student Affairs is available to all undergraduate medical students needing support.
Medical education learners – postgraduate
In postgraduate training, our residents are being supported by their departments and our postgrad office on processes for possible redeployment if necessary to areas of need, and provisional licensing for those in their finishing year. This might mean a shift of timelines with regard to program completion for some, but our residents continue their critical roles in patient care, working and training in clinical settings, with the appropriate precautions and safety measures in place aligned with their levels of training.
Our graduate students also face big changes and challenges, with financial concerns related to part-time work and summer job availability, while continuing their studies. The vast majority are unable to access university buildings and facilities to continue research projects. Know that our college is actively engaged in this issue and working with USask on solutions. This week, I joined CoM Vice-Dean Research Marek Radomski and Assistant Dean Graduate Studies David Cooper at a meeting with our CoM Graduate Student Association. We continue to advocate for our graduate students and are staying in close contact with the College of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies.
Master of Physical Therapy (MPT) students
The School of Rehabilitation Science (SRS) is supporting its students and working to minimize any negative impact on their academic progress. Our faculty there are teaching remotely and students are participating in online classes and examinations focused on the theoretical components of learning objectives. Laboratory content and evaluation have been deferred until students can return for face-to-face delivery. Clinical placements have been cancelled and the school is working diligently to manage the impact. Our MPT research projects have been modified so students can continue their research remotely. SRS faculty and staff maintain close communication with students, and are offering additional material via webinars and promoting wellness activities during this time of physical isolation.
Finally, and once again, I thank our learners, faculty and staff for your efforts of these recent weeks to stay committed and connected.