COVID-19 trainee perspective: An opportunity for growth

As COVID-19 takes our country by storm, hospitals are scrambling to find ways to care for the influx of sick patients safely, effectively and compassionately. Our housestaff at VCU Health, in particular, have been instrumental in developing a “Step Up” culture within our health system.

“They have provided excellent care to patients with COVID-19, taught a virtual medical school curriculum to M3s, continued their own learning through video calls and other remote means, been deployed in roles never before imagined and answered the bell at every call,” says Stephanie Call, M.D., M.S.P.H., professor of medicine and program director for the Department of Internal Medicine Residency Program.  “They also inspire all by fostering a caring, supportive housestaff community.”

Read a few of our residents’ and fellows’ perspectives on their experiences fighting COVID-19 at VCU Health. 

On providing care to COVID-19 affected patients:

C3 COVID-19“Working during the unprecedented COVID pandemic has showcased the community and solidarity we share as VCU residents, regardless of specialty. Confronted with an illness where so little is known about treatment or management, I am inspired by how my residency community has performed their duties unflinchingly, despite unknown risks for themselves. Using our skills to treat this critical patient population and their families is the reason why we pursue careers in medicine and I am proud to fulfill these duties with the VCU and RVA community.” – Neha Hippalgaonkar, PGY2

On serving in different capacities to aid the hospital response:

“It was very meaningful to work in the command center because I got to contribute to our hospital and community to help take on COVID-19. I was challenged by a variety of tasks, including quality improvement, patient flow design and learning COVID testing. Working side by side with the epidemiology team and other command center staff, I not only learned medicine regarding COVID-19, but also cultivated my communication skills, crisis management and leadership.” – Ho Wing (Andy) Chan, PGY1

On setting up a new ICU on a traditional Medicine ward:

Setting up an ICU-capable unit in the Critical Care Hospital has truly been a team effort — and would not have been possible without the hard work and dedication from so many different departments. I'm grateful and extremely proud to work with such amazing individuals.”  - Mac MacMillan, PGY4 Fellow, Pulmonary and Critical Care

On serving as teaching residents for the virtual MS3 clerkship:

"One unexpected skill that I have gotten to work on in this situation is remote teaching and  discussing clinical cases with M3s in small groups. It is a challenge given that there isn’t much control over the learning environment but our medical students are very quick to adapt! I got to try out some of the lessons from our recent teaching retreat and was able to give the M3s a taste of clinical medicine." – Faryal Malick, PGY2

On adapting to virtual conference:

"One of my favorite parts about morning report/conferences is getting together with my colleagues, so naturally I was skeptical of transitioning to Zoom. After a few sessions, however, I've come to appreciate the positive aspects of remote learning. There are now more participants, everyone appears focused on the topic at hand and it's probably the only time of the day that we don't talk about COVID-19."  - Rasha Raslan, PGY2

ACE COVID-19On becoming ill during the pandemic:

“Having been one of the earlier diagnosed cases of COVID19 in the area, I experienced a good deal of uncertainty, fear and anxiety in the beginning. I had an ever-growing list of questions—  when I could return to work, when I could leave isolation and if I'd be immune after. Through this time, I was regularly communicating with those in charge of the response at VCU; I was confident in their leadership and knowledge without which I could not have navigated this experience. And I am truly grateful for their guidance and support, as well as everyone's well wishes, check-ins and deliveries.“ – Resident who requested anonymity

“We continue to be inspired by the fierce dedication, unfailing compassion and commitment to each other shown by our housestaff each day,” Call says. “VCU Health housestaff are proud to foster such a supportive environment and, through caring for our patients and each other, will persevere and make VCU an even better place to work and train.”