Katharina Blattner, Rory Miller, Mark Smith & Janine Lander (2022)
Education for Primary Care, DOI: 10.1080/14739879.2021.2011626
To link to this article: https://doi.org/10.1080/14739879.2021.2011626
In a post-COVID19 era we have all experienced a move into the virtual environment especially for ongoing education/professional development and will relate to this study’s findings.
Aim: Rural-targeted postgraduate medical training is a key factor associated with entering rural practice. Rural health professionals often experience geographical and professional isolation, which can impact their training and education. In New Zealand, during the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic, an established distance postgraduate rural medical programme replaced its in-person residentials with virtual workshops. This study aimed to gain insights into the student experience of the virtual workshops, with emphasis on exploring the effects of the absence of an in-person component.
Method: Qualitative exploratory design. All students who had completed a semester one 2020 University of Otago rural postgraduate module were invited by email to participate. Fifteen semi-structured interviews were conducted by video-conference. A thematic analysis was conducted using a general inductive approach.
Results: Three themes captured the main issues. 1. Making sure everyone is in the same boat: the key roles of an in-person component were identified as consolidation of learning, benchmarking and connectedness. 2. Learning but not connecting: virtual workshops were well facilitated, allowed continuation of study and the convenience of staying home, however connectedness faded. 3. We’ve got to keep a human touch in a digital age: looking beyond the pandemic, opportunities for streamlining virtual content were identified, however there was concern around diminished communication and cultural aspects of learning and the absent connection with rural health services and communities.
Conclusion: A virtual workshop is valuable in the COVID-19 environment but does not replace an in-person component of a distance postgraduate training programme for rural medicine
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