The COVID-19 pandemic has been wreaking havoc on the U.S. healthcare system for weeks. Much of what the American public has been hearing is that the healthcare system has not been equipped from a supplies perspective to handle the burden of the virus. However, in addition to problems with equipment, care, and the exposure of healthcare workers to the virus, the pandemic has also adversely affected medical education.
Those in training are facing a variety of obstacles. Some residents are a significant part of the effort to combat COVID-19, working on the frontlines with patients each day, even if doing so does not align perfectly with their own medial training. Other residents are in quarantine due to exposure. Still others – scheduled to begin their residency programs in a couple of months – are in a sort of limbo, wrapping up medical school but likely not transitioning directly into residency because of delays to the starts of these programs.
While it is not clear if the requests for more pay and benefits made by residents in New York who are being asked to care for COVID-19 patients will be granted, it appears that the American Medical Association (AMA) is taking strides to protect residents. Its newly issued guidance states that medical residents should be given the proper personal protective equipment (PPE) to use during their training and that those who have to quarantine or stay home sick as a result of their exposure to the virus should not have to use vacation time or have their salaries cut as a result of their time off.
Regardless of the specific reason – lack of access to proper PPE, the need to quarantine, or the delay of their program – several residents will likely have extra time on their hands over the next several weeks.
Here are some constructive ways to earn extra money and build relevant skills while residents’ normal work is on hold.
- Consult for healthcare companies. From companies focused on vaccines to those who specialize in diagnostics, healthcare companies that develop clinically relevant products are often on the lookout for medically trained professionals to provide important insights. In the context of COVID-19, many of these companies are scrambling to move at much more rapid pace than they normally do and are likely to therefore have a greater abundance of needs that a trained physician may be well-suited to address.
- Publish something. Now is the perfect time to get your thoughts on this pandemic or anything related to it out there for the world to see and learn from. The media are hyper-focused on COVID-19, and as the days go by, finding new ways to cover the topic becomes more challenging. Those in the media are therefore likely to be receptive to compelling stories or new ideas related to the disease.
- Teach. While certain aspects of our lives have grinded to a halt, educators at all levels are trying to leverage technology to keep education going while social distancing is in place. Students, too, are trying to find the best ways to use this time, and they are still able to accomplish certain types of coursework. While depending on its nature, clinical training may not be particularly conducive to virtual or distance learning, more didactic parts of medicine are. If you did well on the Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT) or your boards, you may be able to tutor for a test prep company. You may also be able to tutor on behalf of a university or as an independent tutor.
Takeaway: For residents who are unable to continue with their anticipated training in the short-term due to COVID-19, there are ways to spend the extra time that can help boost your career in the long-term. What makes the most sense for you depends on your specific skills and goals.
For front-line clinical tools and resources to help you deliver excellent care and information to your patients, please visit the Elsevier COVID-19 Pandemic Hub.