COVID-19 Community of Practice hits milestone session as it helps primary care clinicians navigate the pandemic
The pandemic required that many of us change how we work in ways none of us were prepared or trained for. We were all navigating the uncertainties of COVID-19, not knowing when—or if—it would be behind us, and what is in store for us on the other side. This was especially true in health care.
Since March 2020, health care professionals have adapted and responded to the changing landscape of COVID-19 to keep patients and communities safe, but the guidance around COVID-19—from vaccination to treatment and best practice—changed more rapidly than health care workers could keep apace.
It was clear that there was a need for a forum where primary care providers could exchange ideas and information so they could best address COVID on the ground. So, the University of Toronto Department of Family and Community Medicine (DFCM) in partnership with the Ontario College of Family Physicians created the COVID-19 Community of Practice (CoP), which aims to help family physicians make sense of the ever-changing recommendations around COVID-19. Moderated by Dr. Tara Kiran, the Vice-Chair of Quality and Innovation at DFCM, the CoP hosts online information sessions featuring expert panelists who provide updates on the latest COVID evidence and policy. The interactive meetings also enable primary care providers to learn from and support one another.
The COVID-19 CoP has held sessions regularly since its inception in April 2020, drawing hundreds of participants per session. Past sessions have delved into topics like vaccination, COVID-19 treatments such as Paxlovid, as well as notable variants and how to respond. Now—50 sessions later—the CoP has grown dramatically, with over 1000 family doctors, nurses and other healthcare workers tuning in from across Ontario and beyond.
“I don't think any of us predicted the huge need to keep up with the endless new evidence and guidance related to COVID-19. It’s confusing for everyone,” says Dr. Kiran. “But these sessions have not only become the go-to place for many to get easily digestible, reliable and up-to-date information—it’s also a safe space where people can come in and realize they’re not alone in their confusion and the questions they have. It helps them to feel part of a community.”
The CoP’s 50th session was held on Oct. 7, 2022. Close to 900 attendees logged on to learn more about strategies to support vaccine uptake among Indigenous communities along with the latest on new variants, flu shots, and new COVID-19 vaccines. A video recording and resources from this session and all past sessions are available here.
The COVID-19 CoP is truly a community of practice: many attendees have expressed how grateful they are that they can learn from and connect with others who are facing similar challenges. Feedback on the initiative has been overwhelmingly positive. One participant commented on the ease and convenience of joining online sessions: “I am so grateful for virtual meetings. I could never have participated in these meetings if they were in person. If one can say COVID brought anything good, it would be allowing me to convene with my peers in healthcare despite my more remote location relative to medical institutions. Thank you for continuing these meetings.”
Another reflected on the evolution of the forum: “The other day I was thinking about how this program has changed annually…year one helped us to cope and learn about COVID, year two focused on vaccines, year three is around treatment. I appreciate this so much as I don’t know how I would have managed to stay on top of things without this. I actually feel competent about things related to COVID whether questions are posed to me from colleagues who are not family doctors or from patients.”
Still others have expressed a desire for the CoP to continue even when the pandemic is over. “These have been excellent sessions and I hope when the pandemic is done, they will continue with other current and relevant updates on a variety of topics relevant to family medicine.”
Reflecting on reaching 50 sessions of the COVID CoP, Dr. Kiran notes this milestone was only possible through the tireless effort of a dedicated group of individuals: “I have received a lot of notes of thanks from people who tune in—emails about how these sessions have helped them get through difficult times, how it provides them with a sense of community, and that it’s the silver lining in the pandemic—it’s one of the nicest parts of my job. And we couldn’t have made it to 50 sessions without all those who worked behind the scenes to make it happen. The quality of the sessions and the overwhelming response we’ve received—it’s a testament to the unbelievable contribution from the DFCM and OCFP staff on the COVID-19 CoP team.”
The next COVID-19 CoP session will be held on Oct. 28 from 7:55-9:15am. For more information and to register, please visit the COVID-19 CoP website.