The national lockdown imposed by Lao PDR in response to the pandemic has affected operations at LFHC, but it hasn’t quashed its role as a teaching hospital.
Staff members are not allowed to travel to the hospital for education programs or to enter classrooms. However, administrators have selected topics and learning activities that are appropriate for distance-learning.
During the lockdown, each doctor still receives two full days of teaching per month — one focusing on evidence-based medicine and the other using interactive case studies to revise a previously taught module from the LFHC Child Health Foundation course (infectious diseases).
For the evidence-based medicine piece, we created a virtual journal club. Each doctor was given a published research article to read, accompanied by a reading guide which has exercises and discussion questions throughout, as well as explanations of key points in the article.
As with our in-hospital teaching, we employed a “training of trainers” approach, with each facilitating senior Lao doctor given a teaching guide containing answers to the questions and discussion points. The ability to critically appraise evidence and apply it to their practice is a vital skill that we need to build in our medical team to ensure high quality, evidence-based practice for the long-term, under Lao leadership.
The doctors used the Facebook video chat function for group discussions and two doctors were even able to join from quarantine in the isolation ward (both subsequently tested negative). They had to use their own devices and those with poor Internet connections or having to use their phones to look things up and read found that difficult. However the feedback was overwhelmingly positive.
This was the first time that most of the Lao doctors had read a paper by themselves and they have asked for more reading guides to help them read articles. Published research uses dense language and is at a reading level that is usually far above all of our staff. The combination of the reading guide and using a Lao teacher appeared to adequately overcome the language barrier. Thus this method can help to strengthen independent learning in the future.
All the doctors appreciated the opportunity to learn about research that was done in Laos and identified appropriate changes to personal practice as a result of reading this paper. The sessions also allowed the doctors to practice using appropriate online resources to find answers to medical questions – an essential skill for all clinicians.
The teaching days in the hospital have allowed our doctors to interact with each other away from the stressful clinical environment and play an important role in team bonding and self-care. In a new, socially-distanced world, we have found these distance-learning methods and tools to be useful in allowing medical education to continue and our team to stay connected.