An unexpected transition to virtual care: family medicine residents’ experience during the COVID-19 pandemic Smith, Neale (Research coordinator); Newton, Christie; Barbacuta, Demetra; Tseng, Olivia L.
Background The global COVID-19 pandemic led to rapid changes in both medical care and medical education, particularly involving the rapid substitution of virtual solutions for traditional face-to-face appointments. There is a need for research into the effects and impacts of such changes. The objective of this article investigates the perspectives of Family Medicine Residents in one university program in order to understand the impact of this transition to virtual care and learning. Methods This is a qualitative focus group study. Four focus groups, stratified by site type (Rural = 1; Semi-Urban = 1; Urban = 2) were conducted, with a total of 25 participants. Participants were either first or second-year Residents in Family Medicine. Focus group recordings were analyzed thematically, based upon a five-level socio-ecological model (individual, family, organization, community, environment and policy context). Results Two main themes were identified: (1) Residents’ experiences of Virtual Learning and Virtual Care, and (2) Living and Learning in Pandemic Times. In the first theme, Residents reported challenges both individually, in their family context, and in their training organizations. Of particular concern was the loss of hands-on experience with clinical skills such as conducting physical examinations. In the second theme, Residents reported disruption of self-care routines and family life. These Residents were unable to engage in the relationships outside of the workplace with their preceptors and peers which they had expected, and which play key roles in social support as well as in future decisions about practice location. Conclusions While many patients appreciated virtual care, in the eyes of these Residents it is not the ideal modality for learning the practice of Family Medicine, and they awaited a return to normal times. Despite this, the pandemic has pointed out important ways in which residency training needs to adapt to an evolving world.
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