Finding Positive Takeaways for Resident Education from the COVID-19 Pandemic: A Qualitative Approach

Document Type : Original Article


Department of Emergency Medicine, University of Wisconsin, School of Medicine and Public Health, Madison, Wisconsin, United States of America


Background: The COVID-19 pandemic impacted learning environments across the continuum of medical education. While several recent studies have highlighted educational innovations arising from the pandemic, limited evidence exists describing beneficial changes that may have occurred from residents’ perspectives. The present study explored perceptions of post-graduate trainees from several specialties and highlighted educational ‘wins’ from pandemic innovations that should inform post-pandemic practices.
Methods: A qualitative instrument was developed through input from Emergency Medicine (EM) residents, faculty, and the University of Wisconsin EM Education and Research committees. It was disseminated via email to EM, Internal Medicine, and Surgery residents who were PGY-2 or higher at a single academic institution. The data were analyzed using thematic analysis; two raters independently coded the responses of residents and arrived at consensus.
Results: Advantages of clinical reassignments included novel clinical experiences as well as the perception of contributing to a greater good. Residents noted a greater sense of meaning in their studying related to the pandemic, while also reporting greater flexibility in their options. Positive changes to didactic lectures included ease, efficiency, and comfort associated with remote lectures as well high-quality visiting expert and resident presentations. Finally, key elements of the support provided by residency programs were consistent communications, provision of relevant resources, acknowledging difficulties, and replacing lost clinical experiences. 
Conclusions: Many innovative elements of residencies’ response to COVID-19, such as flexible scheduling and offering more opportunities for individualized learning, were well-received by trainees.


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