Impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the clinical learning environment: filling identified gaps and seizing opportunities
This article was originally published here
Acad Med. September 1, 2021; 96 (9): 1276-1281. doi: 10.1097 / ACM.0000000000004013.
The Clinical Learning Environment (CLE) encompasses the learner’s personal characteristics and experiences, social relationships, organizational culture, and the physical and virtual infrastructure of the facility. During the COVID-19 pandemic, these 4 parts of CLE suffered massive and rapid disruption. Personal and social communications have been limited to virtual interactions or moved to unfamiliar clinical spaces due to redeployment. The rapid changes in organizational culture required rapid adaptations on the part of learners and educators in their complex organizational systems, but caused increased confusion and anxiety among them. A traditional reliance on a physical infrastructure for mainstream educational practices in CLE was challenged when all institutions had to make a major transition to a virtual learning environment. However, the disruptions have spurred exciting innovations in CLE. An entire cohort of physicians and learners underwent rapid adjustments in their personal and professional development and identity as they rose to address the clinical and educational challenges they faced as a result of COVID-19. Social networks and collaborations have extended beyond traditional institutional walls and previously held international boundaries within several specialties. Specific aspects of organizational and educational culture, including epidemiology, public health and medical ethics, have come to the fore in teaching the health professions, while the physical learning environment has undergone a rapid transition to a virtual learning space. As training for the health professions continues in the COVID-19 era and into a new era, educators must take advantage of these dynamic systems to identify additional gaps and implement meaningful change. In this article, educators in the health professions and learners from several institutions and specialties discuss the gaps and weaknesses exposed, opportunities revealed and strategies developed to optimize CLE in the post-COVID-19 world.