Judy McKimm, Trevor Gibbs, Jo Bishop, Paul Jones
Most health professions’ educators (HPEs) are used to responding to change, whether these are longer term organisational changes or short term crises, e.g. staff or student sickness or technical systems’ failures. Most of these changes, whilst they can be frustrating, typically have fairly straightforward and routine solutions. Other wider, environmental changes are also starting to affect educators, learners and the complex education and healthcare systems in which they operate, and these will have great impact in the relatively near future. However, it is the current crisis stemming from the global transmission of the coronavirus COVID-19 which has most recently impacted on HPE on a global scale.
Whilst many of us are very used to working virtually and using social media and other activities to work collaboratively, we still tend to rely on regular meetings with friends and colleagues (old and new) around the world at conferences and meetings. Similarly, most universities rely primarily on face to face teaching to provide their programmes, particularly in the early years. The COVID-19 pandemic has put all that into sharp relief, and many of us are having to make quick and sometimes reactive adaptations to our best-laid plans. In this article, we discuss some of our experiences from the recent Ottawa2020 conference held in Kuala Lumpur from 1-5 March 2020, identifying some of the lessons learned that educators around the world will need to keep in mind as we move into what is currently unchartered territory. The learning lessons from our experience are that safety is paramount, communication and transparency is key; flexibility is needed from all stakeholders; technologies can help, but be realistic; acknowledge the need for psychological adaptation to change and crisis and tap into the wisdom and collegiality of the community. This paper specifically refers to Covid-19 but the learning lessons are applicable to other major challenges and the ideas described transferable to other situations.