Surgical Education in the Time of COVID: Understanding the Early Response of Surgical Training Programs to the Novel Coronavirus Pandemic

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J Surg Educ. 2020 Jul 25:S1931-7204(20)30270-1. doi: 10.1016/j.jsurg.2020.07.036. Online ahead of print.


OBJECTIVE: Describe the early impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on general surgery residency training nationwide.

DESIGN: A 31-question electronic survey was distributed to general surgery program directors. Qualitative data underwent iterative coding analysis. Quantitative data were evaluated with summary statistics and bivariate analyses.

PARTICIPANTS: Eighty-four residency programs (33.6% response rate) with representation across US geographic regions, program affiliations, and sizes.

RESULTS: Widespread changes were observed in the surgical training environment. One hundred percent of programs reduced the number of residents on rounds and 95.2% reduced the size of their in-hospital resident workforce; on average, daytime staffing decreased by nearly half. With telehealth clinics (90.5%) and remote inpatient consults (26.2%), both clinical care and resident didactics (86.9%) were increasingly virtual, with similar impact across all program demographics. Conversely, availability of some wellness initiatives was significantly higher among university programs than independent programs, including childcare (51.2% vs 6.7%), housing (41.9% vs 13.3%), and virtual mental health services (83.7% vs 53.3%).

CONCLUSIONS: Changes in clinical care delivery dramatically reduced in face-to-face learning opportunities for surgical trainees during the COVID-19 pandemic. While this effect had equal impact across all program types, sizes, and geographies, the same cannot be said for wellness initiatives. Though all programs initiated some strategies to protect resident health, the disparity between university programs and independent programs may be cause for action.

PMID:32768380 | DOI:10.1016/j.jsurg.2020.07.036