PHM fellowship changes in response to the COVID-19 pandemic


The COVID-19 surge and pandemic have changed many things in medicine, from how we round on the wards to our increased use of telemedicine in outpatient and inpatient care. This not only changed our interactions with patients, but it also changed our learners’ education. From March to May 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic, many Pediatric Hospital Medicine (PHM) fellowship directors were required to adjust clinical responsibilities and scholarly activities. These changes led to unique challenges and learning opportunities for fellows and faculty.

Dr. Anika Kumar, Cleveland Clinic Children's

Dr. Anika Kumar

Many fellowships were asked to make changes to patient care for patient/provider safety. Because of low censuses, the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center’s Pittsburgh Children’s Hospital closed their observation unit; as a result, Elise Lu, MD, PhD, PHM fellow, spent time rounding on inpatient units instead of the observation unit. At the Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles, PHM fellow Brandon Palmer, MD, said his in-person child abuse elective was switched to a virtual elective. Dr. Adam Cohen, chief PHM fellow at Baylor College of Medicine/Texas Children’s Hospital, both in Houston, offered to care for adult patients and provide telehealth services to pediatric patients, but was never called to participate.

At other programs, fellows experienced greater changes to patient care and systems-based practice. Carlos Plancarte, MD, PHM fellow at Children’s Hospital of Montefiore, New York, provided care for patients up to the age of 30 years as his training hospital began admitting adult patients. Jeremiah Cleveland, MD, PHM fellowship director at Maimonides Children’s Hospital, New York, shared that his fellow’s “away elective” at a pediatric long-term acute care facility was canceled. Dr. Cleveland changed the fellow’s rotation to an infectious disease rotation, which gave her a unique opportunity to evaluate the clinical and nonclinical aspects of pandemic and disaster response.

Dr. Matthew Shapiro is a Fellow at Anne and Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital in Chicago,

Dr. Matthew Shapiro

PHM fellows also experienced changes to their scholarly activities. Matthew Shapiro, MD, a fellow at Anne and Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital in Chicago, had to place his quality improvement research on hold and is writing a commentary with his mentors. Marie Pfarr, MD, a fellow at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital and Medical Center, changed her plans from a simulation-based research project to studying compassion fatigue. Many fellows had workshops, platform and/or poster presentations at the Pediatric Academic Societies Meeting and/or the Pediatric Hospital Medicine Conference, both of which were canceled.

Some fellows felt the pandemic provided them an opportunity to learn communication and interpersonal skills. Dr. Shapiro observed his mentors effectively communicating while managing a crisis. Dr. Plancarte shared that he learned that saying “I don’t know” can be helpful when effectively leading a team.

Dr. Carlos Plancarte, PHM Fellow at Children’s Hospital of Montefiore, in New York

Dr. Carlos Plancarte

Despite the changes, the COVID-19 pandemic’s most important lesson was the creation of a supportive community. Across the country, PHM fellows were supported by faculty, and faculty by their fellows. Dr. Plancarte observed how his colleagues united during a challenging situation to support each other. Ritu Patel, MD, PHM fellowship director at Kaiser Oakland shared that her fellowship’s weekly informal meetings helped bring her fellowship’s fellows and faculty closer. Joel Forman, MD, PHM fellowship director and vice chair of education at Mount Sinai Kravis Children’s Hospital in New York stressed the importance of camaraderie amongst faculty and learners.

While the pandemic continues, and long after it has passed, fellowship programs have learned that fostering community across training lines is important for both fellows and faculty.

Dr. Kumar is a pediatric hospitalist at Cleveland Clinic Children’s. She is a clinical assistant professor of pediatrics at Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, and serves as the pediatrics editor for the Hospitalist.

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