A lighthouse perched on a rocky outcrop long used to choppy seas, the healthcare industry is weathering a storm surge of unprecedented proportions with the COVID-19 crisis.
As a result of these extraordinary times, a massive call to arms has gone out to those throughout the industry regardless of their prior role within it. From retirees, dermatologists, psychiatrists, to students on the cusp of residencies, the response has been inspiring.
Why? Much has been rightfully made about the need to ‘flatten the curve’ through social distancing, hand washing, and self-isolation, but the unparalleled influx of healthcare professionals back into the medical ranks has been part of the important effort to ‘raise the line.’
While ‘flattening the curve’ extends the number of COVID-19 cases over time so the healthcare system has the overall ability to deal with them, ‘raising the line’ improves its very capacity to achieve that.
From cancelling elective procedures, increased telemedicine capacity, and ensuring N95 masks and personal protective equipment are made available to the appropriate staff, small things make huge differences – and will save a lot of lives.
Because here’s the thing: regular patients don’t go away. People are still dealing with all the usual afflictions of life, putting the entire industry under massive strain. Dr Dustyn Williams, OnlineMedEd’s co-founder and lead educator, calls this COVID-19’s ‘gravity chasm’.
“Everyone is pulled to the right to take care of these sick patients [and] that leaves a gaping chasm where they once were, taking care of regular ICU patients,” he says.
With experts in pulmonary critical care thrown straight onto the COVID-19 frontlines, the ‘gravity chasm’ is being filled by healthcare professionals now dealing with cases they are not regularly used to.
“Everyone is being moved to a thing they are unfamiliar with,” Dr Williams says. “They were already over-worked, over-burdened, and over-stressed in their role where they did have repetitions. Now they are moved to the same level of stress and work without the repetitions. With the same number of patients plus COVID-19.”
“What we’ve built is for someone involved in healthcare to come to one place, identify the persona most like them – and we deliver the appropriate content.”
Dr Dustyn Williams
As part of a response to these unprecedented times, and with an urgent requirement for healthcare professionals to quickly upskill in unfamiliar areas, OnlineMedEd has stepped up in a massive way.
Launched this week, a 48-lesson, 12.5-hour Crash Course in Medicine has been made freely available to all professionals – from students to MDs, DOs, NPs and PAs – stepping up and doing their part. People can identify the ‘persona’ that most matches their personal situation and are directed to the resources they need to understand, and build the repetitions in that field.
From fourth-year students graduating early to start their residencies, medicine-trained professionals required to work in the ICU, and non-medicine residents repurposed for medicine, all types of specific healthcare individuals are covered in a simple, solid, easily digestible program.
Dr Williams likens the OnlineMedEd ‘crash course’ to a rapid re-learning of a language that you may have taken at high school, but have rarely used since.
“It’s like learning Spanish in high school and twenty years later, you have to use it,” he says. “You don’t speak Spanish so well. You could probably get by and ask where the bathroom is, but you’re not going to be able to have conversations. That’s where we step in.”
“We want people taking action in the right way,” he continues. “What we’ve built is for someone involved in healthcare to come to one place, identify the persona most like them – and we deliver the content that is appropriate for whatever [new] role they are going to pursue.”
OnlineMedEd’s COVID-19 response goes beyond the Crash Course in Medicine. A telemedicine educational program has been built to facilitate schools teaching students about how to conduct telemedicine interviews with patients, while Case X has been made available as a virtual classroom and comparison to assist teachers run didactics.
Dr Williams says that more than 20 deans, chief executives, and practicing providers have reached out to him directly saying they’d been ‘redeployed’ and were looking for exactly what OnlineMedEd was providing.
In the years to come, he says he wants to be able to look back on this moment and know OnlineMedEd did all it could to help ‘raise the line’ and provide the resources healthcare professionals needed to make it happen.
“I’d like to think that we are literally going to save lives,” he says. “We are giving a practical, usable, digestible resource to enable people to do what they have to do.”
“We’re going to get through [COVID-19]. People are going to get called upon to do what they don’t know how to do. They are going to get used to it, because they’re going to get repetitions as this will last a while. But we’re getting the ball rolling.”
“Everyone who comes looking for help to do good for other people is going to start with us, and that’s going to boost everyone to be more proactive and contribute more.”
While healthcare professionals on the COVID-19 frontlines stay dedicated, public gratitude for their important work is widespread and deeply genuine. Those that bolster the ranks who care for those in society who continue to suffer outside this crisis deserve, and will receive, similar recognition.
It’s a team effort and OnlineMedEd is proud to be playing its part in ensuring the light keeps shining in uncertain times.