The vital role of our residents

As frontline caregivers, our residents are essential members of the healthcare workforce as well as learners. This dual role means they were significantly and directly impacted by COVID-19.

Our residents have risen impressively to the challenge. While managing the impact of the pandemic on their own learning, many residents volunteered for additional work in high-risk situations, including the intensive care units and teaching our undergraduate medical students. While some of the residents had to self-isolate, others pitched in to address the gaps in clinical coverage.

Our Postgraduate Medical Education (PGME) office, led by Dr. Anurag Saxena, has also done excellent work in supporting our residents and the health system, and navigating through these troubled waters. The PGME office quickly developed the plans and processes to ensure that residents could continue to support patient care and gain learning experiences. I’ve mentioned a number of times, but will say it again, our college is highly committed to training and graduating physicians for our province. The PGME team is doing its critical part very effectively in this important work.

Our PGME team has been quick to respond and strived to stay a step ahead, despite uncertainties. Focused on mitigating this pandemic’s adverse impact, our residents have been supported in many ways. This includes, voluntary exemption from clinical duties for high-risk residents, provisions for carrying over vacations, additional funding and resources for counselling and well-being initiatives, and support during on-call duties. Residents have access to additional funding and resources for COVID-19 and patient-oriented research. Our program directors are admirably leading individual residency programs to adapt to the continuing uncertainty and ambiguity, and providing alternate learning experiences to ensure timely completion of residency.

Our residents have worked through disruptions in training with both redeployment and delayed licensing, impacting their plans and careers. I am sure the tone of support and teamwork set by Anurag and PGME, which ensured that residents had input into decisions impacting them, played a role in our residents expressing appreciation for the support they’ve experienced. The Resident Doctors of Saskatchewan (RDoS) and PGME (and the CoM) are aligned and work together to navigate this crisis. We even heard from RDoS that our province is the best place to be a resident!

The integrated teams in our university and in the Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) have done an amazing job navigating the additional work and planning required to support transitions related to redeployment and licensing for those who were completing their training this year. All parties involved were doing this while, of course, also managing the added pressures and stress of the pandemic.

The system-wide work to support residents has included our clinical department provincial heads (who work for both the CoM and SHA), area leads from SHA, and residency program directors and program administrative assistants who work directly with residents “on the ground.” Our college’s administrative team leaders have been integral in supporting transitions to virtual learning, with agile responses to financial and human resource considerations.

These leaders are working cooperatively with many of our external partners including SHA, the SMA, College of Physicians and Surgeons of Saskatchewan (CPSS), other PGME offices in the country under the auspices of the AFMC and the national bodies (the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada, the College of Family Physicians Canada, the Medical Council of Canada, and Federation of Medical Regulatory Authorities of Canada) on system issues around admissions, national certification examinations, licensing, and planned launch of Competence By Design. Dr. Kent Stobart, vice-dean education, leads in an exemplary fashion within and across organizational boundaries and creates conditions for the success of our PGME program. It has been a true team effort underlined by effective collaboration and impressive leadership.

Great work is being done to ensure continued support for resident wellness, with resources available from our college and university, SHA and RDoS. I share some details of these here:

Finally, kudos to our residents and all involved in supporting them in their important roles as learners and medical doctors!