To date, the implications of the COVID- 19 pandemic on doctors in training, medical education and specialty training programs including Medical Oncology is not widely known. This study aimed at evaluating the impact of the pandemic from a trainee’s perspective, on training opportunities, work environment and well-being of current Medical Oncology trainees in health services across Victoria.
A questionnaire consisting of 11 multiple-choice (Likert scale) questions covering key areas of impact including work hours, educational opportunities, career progression, and mental health, was distributed via email to all current trainees in an accredited and unaccredited Medical Oncology training position in Victoria. Sample size was determined after no new survey responses were obtained after 4 weeks, and content analysis was performed on data collected.
33 out of 55 trainees participated in the survey, with the majority currently completing their training in a metropolitan health service. 30% of trainees report an increase in weekly worked hours (ranging from 5 to 15 hours a week), with only 1 of 33 respondents redeployed to cover furloughed colleagues. 91% of participants report learning opportunities within the clinical setting has been affected due to less interaction time with consultants and fewer new outpatient referrals. Educational opportunities outside the clinical setting were less impacted by the pandemic, as virtual conferences and journal clubs are still accessible to trainees. About half thought their access to research and progression through training had been affected. Although 66% report an impact on their mental health and psychological well-being, no participants needed to seek professional help.
The pandemic has hugely affected the work environment and on-the-job learning opportunities for Medical Oncology trainees in Victoria. Ongoing efforts need to focus on facilitating more educational sessions and virtual workplace interactions with senior clinicians to promote learning in the clinical environment.