Firstly, thank you to all of our Junior Doctors who work tirelessly every day in the battle against the COVID-19 outbreak across Australia and New Zealand. Your sacrifice and selflessness is inspirational.
COVID Impacts at Work
There is no doubt that COVID-19 has caused a massive impact on junior doctor training across the country. Basic Physician Trainees continue to be at the forefront of assessment and management of these complex patients and presentations. Most training hospitals have been forced to employ never before seen strategies in order to prepare for the potential worst possible case scenarios eventuating from significant community spread of the virus. These strategies have resulted in the redeployment of BPTs from their specialty training positions to the front line of medical admissions in emergency departments and managing suspected or confirmed cases within the hospital setting.
This change in working condition has resulted in lost time working in specialty areas and gaining valuable clinical exposure. Nevertheless, managing such complex COVID positive patients during a pandemic of this scale, must in itself be recognised as significant educational experience that many other senior colleagues have never experienced in their training.
COVID Impacts on Training
The RACP have not yet determined the impact that these changes will have on the BPT year. At this stage, there has been no decision or communication regarding the accreditation of this training year for BPTs (or ATs). Other colleges, such as the College of Surgeons have announced 6-month suspension of training accrediation due to the lack of elective surgery and inpatients under their service - which directly affects a surgical registrars training and clinical exposure. However, it is inappropriate to compare the training of surgical trainees to BPTs, given the work done by BPTs in response to the COVID threat.
Virtually all training hospitals have suspended medical education programs, or moved to reduced capacity via online forums. Redeployment of BPTs from specialty rotations to COVID specific work, in addition to the lack of elective procedures and admissions, has reduced clinic exposure. This will impact BPT training. There has never been a more important time for BPTs to take their education and training into their own hands, and use their time outside work to maintain professional development and education pathways.
COVID Impacts on Examinations
At the time of writing this article, no decision has been made about the RACP Written Examination. The RACP clinical exam has been suspended until late 2020/early 2021 - currently, the progression of BPTs into advanced training has not been established and no decision has been reached. There will be an entire year of BPTs who have passed the written exam and would be eligible for the clinical exam that are stuck in limbo, and would naturally be applying for advanced training programs. This issue has not been rectified and we await a college decision on the matter.
Given there has been no decision on the RACP Written Examination, we would strongly encourage all BPTs eligible for the RACP written examination in February 2021 to study as if this exam was still scheduled to go ahead. In addition, due to social distancing practices, some BPT courses may not proceed as previously planned. We would strongly recommend commencing your study now, if you have not already. Based on the timeline provided in the Top Physician online course, you should be 2 months into your study! However, it is never too late to begin and you can begin your exam preparation today.