These are extraordinary times. Unprecedented global events are unfolding around us. Every aspect of our lives is being impacted by public health policies that we would never have considered even remotely likely in our society. The health and education sectors are bearing the brunt of both the evolving pandemic and the containment measures. As health professional educators we feel the pain from all angles.
As I write this message, I struggle with the need to acknowledge the gravity of the situation, and the need to play whatever small role that I can, to try and find some positivity within this grim reality. I may not succeed in achieving this balance, but I assure you that I write this with the best of intentions.
The grim reality is that we face a health crisis of an unimaginable magnitude. On a global scale, we collectively face morbidity and mortality that our generation has never experienced. Health systems will be tested to their limits and beyond. Health professionals will be stretched to breaking point, and we hope that the commitment that brought us into these professions will suffice to see us through the difficult times ahead. I salute those of you who are already on the front lines and expect that many of us will be playing our part as the workforce requirements increase over the next few weeks.
The impact on the higher education sector is on a scale that is still difficult to grasp. The impact on students and staff has been significant. It has been amazing to see the resilience and resolve of our colleagues as they adapt to this new environment. I have personally experienced this and am in awe of the capacity of colleagues to step up and venture into unknown territory with amazing courage and boldness. The strength of our student body has been heartening, and once again, I have personally experienced the amazing outcomes that we can achieve when we work in partnership with the student body.
Can we find a silver lining around these dark clouds? Is this the catalyst that might drive a wave of change that was so desperately needed in healthcare and education? Is this the time to re-visit our deeply held beliefs and practices in health professional education? We have seen how the crisis has changed models that would usually take years of negotiation, with the rapid expansion of remote consulting being a key example. This may be the time for us to reconsider all that we did in the name of health professional education and ask ourselves whether some radical change may be needed. Can we look at redundancies of content and skills within our programs, and replace these with the skills that the next generation of health professionals will need? Could we look at resource intensive practices that use up precious global resources, including our daily commutes to work, and ask whether there are better ways to achieve our aims? Academic conferences would be another area that deserves close attention. We see many conferences around the world cancelling or converting to virtual formats. With great sadness we have also decided that a face-to-face format will not be possible for ANZAHPE 2020. But we remain open to other options. We are presently exploring options to utilise the resources developed for the conference to deliver a program of professional development that will be meaningful to our members. I would welcome suggestions from you on innovative options that we might use.
I will end by drawing your attention to the discussion forum that is now available on our revamped ANZAHPE website. We would love to hear about innovative educational approaches that you may have adopted in response to this evolving crisis. We are all grappling with similar problems across institutions and it would be wonderful to engage in some practice-sharing. The discussion forum also encourages open discussion of topics of relevance to health professional education. Please feel free to use these fora to share your thoughts and stay connected as a caring community during these uncertain times.
Wishing each and every one of you the very best.