Lessons learned from a year of healthcare education during a pandemic

  • Education

Jenny Moffett is a Faculty Developer in RCSI's Health Professions Education Centre (HPEC). Here, Jenny outlines the lessons that can be taken from the experience of educating future healthcare professionals during a pandemic.

Health professions education is an applied discipline which has been built on evidence and tried-and-tested educational theories. However, 2020 was the year that ripped up the textbook, as educators and students learned to embrace new pedagogies and technologies with limited time.

While higher education institutions across the world pivoted to online education delivery, health professions universities faced unique challenges, such as decreased clinical teaching opportunities and repurposed workplace environments.

RCSI took an agile approach to these rapidly changing and uncertain circumstances by establishing a range of supports and infrastructure to empower staff. For example, a newly founded Digitally Engaged Learning team aimed to generate leadership and provide effective online and blended learning environments to support both staff and students. Practical strategies, such as structured faculty training and the nurturing of online communities, facilitated educators as they found their feet in new online and hybrid spaces. This scaffolded approach helped the RCSI community to adapt to a drastically different learning environment to undertake a "leap of faith" which provided opportunities for growth and innovation.

As we stop and reflect on our experiences of teaching during a pandemic, we realise that there are many lessons learned for health professions educators. Working with researchers around the globe, the RCSI HPEC team contributed to new knowledge around supporting effective online learning and maintaining clinical exposure during challenging times (Gordon et al., 2020).

We know now the importance of emergent technologies as "essential components of the transformative change and the future of medical education" (Goh & Sandars, 2020). By engaging in mindful instruction design, we can harness the advances of technology in supporting learning for different cohorts and populations of health professions learners.

Going forward, there has been a perceptible shift in mindset. We are empowered to challenge what has gone before. While we can't deny the value of decades, even centuries, of the health professions education tradition, we now recognise the value of teaching intuitively and adaptively, and using the evidence base as a springboard for new ideas to support learning. By holding the lessons of the pandemic to heart, we can engage with new ways of thinking and planning in order to prepare our health professionals of the future.

Jenny MoffettJenny Moffett is an educationalist and faculty developer in RCSI's Health Professions' Education Centre (HPEC).


RCSI is committed to achieving a better and more sustainable future through the UN Sustainable Development Goals.