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GME prepares for new house officers amid COVID-19

Image with caption: Chandra Are, M.D., associate dean for graduate medical education for the UNMC College of Medicine

Chandra Are, M.D., associate dean for graduate medical education for the UNMC College of Medicine

The largest onboarding of new employees begins each year in June at academic medical centers across the country.

This year, more than 34,000 newly minted doctors will start work July 1 at their assigned residency programs around the country. UNMC will welcome approximately 180 house officers, including 70 native Nebraskans.

"Even in a normal year, it's a stressful and memorable transition," said Chandra Are, M.D., associate dean for graduate medical education for the UNMC College of Medicine. "Talk to any doctor and they'll tell you about their unforgettable July 1 experience."

This year's house officers have the additional stress of beginning their residencies amid the COVID-19 pandemic. This will be the first batch of "Gen C" (COVID-19) interns who will start their training in such extraordinarily challenging times.

As a result, the Office of Graduate Medical Education (GME) is asking house officers to arrive earlier than usual. "We're making decisions for July 1 based on the experts (local and national) input and data we know now," Dr. Are said. "Knowing it might change, we plan to err on the side of safety and have them arrive earlier than usual." That earlier than usual arrival will allow for any quarantine requirements and enable them to accommodate any last-minute changes.

GME Orientation has been completely re-designed to a virtual format, which will be held June 25-26. The only in-person orientation will include Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) training and testing, which will follow all distancing guidelines.

This year's orientation will include special COVID-19 educational sessions "by the world's experts" on our campus, Dr. Are said. "We need to remember that many of these medical students may not have been in a hospital environment for months which can make this transition even more stressful. To account for the additional stressors, we will include well-being sessions by experts on our campus."

On March 17, UNMC suspended all medical student participation in clinical activities that involved direct patient care, a decision that was in line with an Association of American Medical Colleges recommendation made that same day.

Fellows, Dr. Are said, often can't come early, but once here, they, too, will participate in COVID-19 educational sessions, PPE training and testing, and well-being sessions.

"GME orientation will focus on the safety of house officers and help make the transition as smooth as possible," Dr. Are said. "We are, after all, orienting the physicians who will be a part of the team of frontline heroes to help us tackle this pandemic."

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