In an effort to keep you informed about developing plans at Wake Forest School of Medicine related to the re-entry of students into the clinical environment, we’re sharing the following interim plans. Please note that we must be prepared to modify any plans we are implementing in the event of a surge of sick patients into our health system or a significant change in our PPE supply.

We have been working closely with our COVID-19 Task Force on understanding the issues of our health system’s PPE supply and its ongoing availability during this pandemic. As you are aware, we are at a point with the activity of the pandemic that our health system is beginning to initiate a phased reintegration of previously postponed surgeries beginning the week of May 4. It is still critically important that our frontline staff and providers have adequate supplies of PPE to provide patient care. Based upon the continued aggressive work of our COVID-19 Task Force, our PPE supply is such that we are able to begin making plans to stage a re-entry of MD students into the clinical environment in early June. Our PA and CRNA program students have continued to train in the clinical environment over these past several weeks and they will remain engaged as we move forward.

As patient volumes are beginning to increase over the next several weeks to months, the MD program is planning a transition from the current distance education to a blended learning experience where students will have some direct patient care blended with telehealth experiences and distance education/independent study. This approach will allow the curriculum to flex and scale up as patient volumes increase.

Plans we are implementing that need to happen in sequence before we are able to allow MD program students to get back into the clinical environment include:

  • Students who are currently out of this area must return to the Forsyth County area in early May, ideally beginning the week of May 4, to begin a period of 14 days of self-isolation, social distancing and self-monitoring of symptoms. Allowing such a 14-day period to elapse will allow us to begin some in-person curricular activities scheduled in small groups (<10 people) with students wearing face masks.
  • During the latter two weeks of May, we will coordinate in-person PPE donning and doffing skills training for students in small groups (<10 people) prior to allowing students to engage in direct patient care on rotations.

Regarding the MD students’ clinical curriculum, we continue to work on arranging the rest of the academic year with many contingencies depending upon how the COVID-19 pandemic treats us over the next several weeks. We are working with clerkship directors, elective directors, and AI/ICU directors and will share additional details about what the schedule for clerkships and AI/ICU/Electives will look like once we have that information to share. 

Working closely with our COVID-19 Task Force, interim models we are working on would have MS2022 (third year students) begin as of June 1 and MS2021 (fourth year students) as of June 8. These dates are, again, based upon interim planning. We will share more details once we are able to finalize plans.

While the plans for direct patient care experiences across all programs are adapting, we continue to ensure the continuity of education toward the Wake Forest School of Medicine degree our students are pursuing. We are confident that students will receive the high-quality training that will make them outstanding clinicians and ones that continue to represent the quality of School of Medicine graduates so well.

There are still so many unanswered questions and, like academic medical centers across the nation, we do not have answers to all of the questions. Right now, we are working to control what we can, recognizing that changes in the activity of this pandemic may cause us to alter our plans. We are optimistic about our ability to take the steps we’ve outlined above to get students ready for and re-engaged in direct patient care.

At this time, we are asking our MD students to plan their travel so that, if they are out of the Forsyth County area, they can come back to this area as early as possible during the week of May 4. If students have plans to remain outside of Forsyth County during the month of May, they will coordinate their plan for re-entry directly with Dr. Randy Clinch.

As always, thank you for your willingness to work with us and with each other during these amazingly challenging times. We look forward to reconnecting you with all of our learners in-person on the wards and in the clinics and we are excited that we’re moving forward with plans to get our students safely back to direct patient care.

Be well and stay safe.