Moving Us Closer To Osler
A Miller Coulson Academy of Clinical Excellence Initiative

How to Support Your Learners During a Pandemic

A safe takeout meal for residents and fellows to pick up.


Listening to your trainees is always the first step in prioritizing their well-being and mitigating burnout. This is especially important during challenging times.

It’s always important to prioritize the well-being of yourself and others, and even more so during a pandemic. For several years now at my hospital, we’ve been supporting our residents and fellows through a variety of well-being events sponsored by our graduate medical education office. This includes Wellness Wednesday events at our two main hospital campuses. However, the things that our trainees most enjoyed at Wellness Wednesdays—seated massages, healthy food, mindful coloring, and just sitting and talking with friends—are challenging during this time of physical distancing.


Here 3 things you can do to support your learners during challenging times: 


1. Listen to your trainees to address their needs. 

We asked the elected representatives of our trainees what they needed. The answers? Pre-stamped Mother’s and Father’s Day cards for them to fill out to send to their parents, as they don’t have time to get to the store. Hand sanitizer, cloth masks, and individually packaged food items. Spaces to eat that are physically distanced.


2. Be flexible yet steady.

We’re lucky to have committed team members to have Wellness Wednesday events that continue regularly throughout the pandemic. What we do each week might change, but having something each week brings a routine and some sense of normalcy.


3. Communicate, communicate, communicate.

During the pandemic, our graduate medical education office partners with housestaff and clinical fellows council leadership to have weekly informational webinars. We give updates on important things like vaccine distribution and also allow time to answer questions from residents and trainees. We continue to send weekly well-being emails to every resident and fellow, reminding them of the mental health and other resources available to them through our institution.


Through these steps, we show our gratitude to residents, fellows, and other members of the team who are working so hard during this trying time. The COVID-19 pandemic will be permanently imprinted on all of us, and we know it will have an especially large impact on trainees. We see an end in sight and in the meantime will continue to work to support their well-being.