Impact of COVID-19 on Residency Education

The Royal College is working together with postgraduate deans, specialty committees, schools, programs and partners across Canada to monitor the impacts of the pandemic on all aspects of the learning environment. As the situation evolves and new information emerges, this page will be updated with the most current information.

April update

Understanding the impact of COVID-19 on CBD: What we know right now

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to evolve, we are closely monitoring its evolution and resulting impacts on residency education. Given the current environment, our intention is to be flexible and nimble as we support programs in implementing Competence by Design (CBD). From the Royal College perspective, all specialties in the 2020 launch cohort have completed the development and documentation of national standards to allow for launch to proceed as anticipated. What is still unknown, however, is whether the individual programs feel ready to launch, given their unique situations with regards to COVID-19 impacts.

COVID-19 has variable impacts on programs

Preliminary discussions with and emails from stakeholders in the postgraduate medical education community indicate that the impact of COVID-19 is felt differently by each specialty, school, and region, including:

  • Impact to workload and day-to-day activities could be minimal for some and significant for others, with some effects including increases in patient load and redeployment of residents and staff to deal with patient surges, limitations in clinical activity due to a shift in priorities to acute COVID management, and the need to fill in for sick or absent colleagues.

  • Understandably, the educational mandate of programs may be affected. For those programs looking to launch CBD in 2020, heavily impacted programs may have put a hold on CBD implementation preparations, programs with fewer impacts may continue to move towards implementation in July, whereas others may be somewhere in between.

Ensuring one national standard for all trainees

In order for a discipline to launch in CBD, all of its programs need to convert together. This approach helps to ensure that we maintain one national standard for all trainees. With that said, we are currently working with each school and program to get a better picture of program readiness for launch before proposing flexibilities and next steps.

Current status

  • Program Director Survey of 2020 CBD launch cohort: On April 14, 2020, the Royal College distributed a survey to program directors of disciplines with a planned Competence by Design (CBD) launch in July 2020. The survey is intended to gather information from those impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic to inform decisions relating to the July launch. As these programs and specialties have put considerable efforts into being ready to launch in July, we are working hard to ensure plans stay as on track as possible. This survey will help to project a national picture of program readiness for launch. Insights from the survey will be used to discuss and propose next steps in collaboration with postgraduate deans, specialty committees and local CBME leads.

  • Perfection is not the goal. Adjusting to the challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic will take time, patience and flexibility. As with any launch of new CBD programs, our approach has been iterative; perfection from Day 1 is never our expectation. In the time of COVID-19, we understand that implementation will be a work in progress. There will be scenarios to work out and modifications along the way. The Royal College will work with programs and the CBME Leads to provide help and support in this time of uncertainty.

  • Adjusting the faculty development strategy: We understand that faculty development is a major factor in a program’s sense of readiness for launch. In many cases, programs’ original plans for faculty development require some rethinking and ingenuity given physical distancing and time constraints. To this end, the Royal College is providing support and resources to facilitate a flexible delivery of faculty development in virtual and challenged learning environments. This plan includes tips for virtual teaching, as well as free and easy access to the Royal College’s CanMEDS Tools Guide.


Committed to ongoing updates as this situation evolves

We know how essential information is in today’s environment. The impacts of COVID-19 have touched many aspects of residency and continuing education. We appreciate how hard all involved are working to support training. We are committed and actively working to identify opportunities to provide guidance to address your concerns. We will continue to share information, both by email to those directly working on CBD and on updates to this webpage, with guidance on how to continue to meet the training requirements of programs in this changing learning environment.

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  • Accumulating credits during residency that can be applied to your continuing professional development (CPD) requirements following certification
  • Regular updates from the Royal College

Stay informed on Royal College announcements including impacts of COVID-19.

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