COVID-19 Response

The University of Florida Pediatric Residency Program Response to COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic forced medical education to evolve quickly to continue to provide optimal training while prioritizing both safety and comprehensive patient care. At the University of Florida, we have reacted swiftly and intentionally to adapt, and this page serves as a guide to share our current practices with you as this situation continues to evolve. 

During the initial phase of rapid cycle change, leadership at all levels worked hard to ensure we continued to provide excellent patient care, while maintaining safe learning opportunities for our trainees. Over the course of a month, telemedicine visits at UF increased from less than 100 daily to over 1,500 daily, general pediatric outpatient care was divided amongst “sick” and “well” sites, and the rotation schedule of each individual resident was reviewed and adjusted as necessary to respond to patient care, personal, and learning needs. While personal protective equipment (PPE) was initially inventoried and secured, we prioritized resident safety and when possible, minimized their part in the care for patients under investigation (PUIs).

The state of Florida surpassed its initial peak hospital resource use, daily new cases and daily deaths from COVID-19 based on the most recent models available. During this time, the demand for PPE, hospital beds, ICU care and ventilators at UF Health Shands Hospital and UF Health Shands Children’s Hospital never exceeded our available resources. With the downtrend in COVID-19 cases and deaths, the state of Florida started phase 1 of reopening Florida on May 4, 2020. We will continue closely monitoring local data for evidence of a resurgence so we can respond appropriately.

UF Health Screen, Test & Protect Dashboard

As the start of fall semester approaches, we are kicking off a new public dashboard that offers an ‘at-a-glance’ picture of COVID-19 trends among members of the university community — faculty, staff and students. These figures should provide a clearer picture of what is happening on campus from day to day.

Alachua County COVID-19 Statistics and Updates

The COVID-19 pandemic has irrevocably changed our profession and our lives. As we embrace the “new normal”, our top priority remains the safety of our patients and health care teams. Decisions regarding offered services, logistics, supply lines and safety procedures are managed by a team of experts in our UF Health COVID Command Center.

Currently, non-COVID-related patient volume in our outpatient practices and hospitals is ramping back up, and elective surgical procedures resumed as part of the phase 1 reopening of Florida. We continue to provide face-to-face patient care in our inpatient and outpatient settings, as well as offer telehealth visits. We recognize that while we faced many challenges with this pandemic, it prompted us to make positive changes on a short timeline, with a robust telehealth program being one of those changes. We see our telehealth program providing a new and valuable opportunity of education that will certainly be part of pediatric care indefinitely, and resident input and participation was integral to our success. We were already in the process of working on a telehealth curriculum prior to current events, and after recently securing grant funding we endeavor to complete and share this curriculum as a best practice with other institutions.

When in the hospital or practices (both in patient care and non-patient care areas), all members of the health care team are required to wear an appropriate mask. In accordance with CDC recommendations of avoiding large groups, all teaching conferences are now moved online, which includes our morning report, Grand Rounds, fellows’ research conference, and our Academic Half Day.  Online curricula have always existed at our institution, and we were able to build on and further expand these resources for educational opportunities during our initial COVID-19 peak month; however, the resumption of in-person electives and rotations is fully underway. Finally, wellness and mental health are prioritized during these trying times, and the UF Employee Assistance Program and UF College of Medicine offer our residents online, telemedicine and in-person resources which are flexible and convenient. 

UF Health Shands Children’s Hospital is consistently recognized by U.S. News & World Report as one of the best children’s hospitals in the country. In times such as these, it is our responsibility to utilize our resources and the robust research infrastructure which exists at our institution to further the world’s knowledge of COVID-19. This virus has humbled the best and brightest in the scientific community, and it is only through novel research that we can acquire knowledge to provide evidence-based care and recommendations. As of May, more than 188 research protocols related to COVID-19 have been submitted for IRB approval at our institution, and currently 17 (and counting!), such grant-funded projects, are underway within our Department of Pediatrics. The investigations include a variety of topics which encompass both clinical and translational research. We are excited to be a leader in innovating technologies and best practices to address this illness, which has transformed our nation and the world.

Recruitment for the 2021 Residency Application Cycle

The UF Pediatric Residency program is aware of the challenges that have and will continue to arise for the upcoming interview season. Our program is part of the national conversation with the Association of Pediatric Program Directors (APPD) and representatives from the Council on Medical Student Education in Pediatrics (COMSEP) regarding the topics of holistic application review, changes to the ERAS timeline, and considerations regarding virtual interviewing. We acknowledge that COVID-19 has affected many potential applicants’ ability to complete core clerkship rotations, sub-internships, research projects, participate in service opportunities, take advantage of away rotations, secure letters of recommendation or even complete Step 2 of the USMLE or COMLEX exams. We also appreciate the financial stressors that the pandemic has created for many individuals and families. Despite these challenges, we encourage all of those interested in our residency program to apply this coming year. Rest assured your application will be reviewed with appreciation for all of the trials and limitations that students have faced. As an institution, under the leadership of our Graduate Medical Education (GME) office, it has been decided that all residency programs based at UF Gainesville will only be offering virtual interviews this year. As our local situation evolves and additional recommendations are made, we will update this site with information regarding application requirements, and interview dates. In compliance with recommendations from the Association of Pediatric Program Directors and the Coalition of Physician of Physician Accountability, the UF Pediatric Residency Program will not be offering in-person “Second Looks”. We will host a virtual Second Look near the end of the season. Information about this session will be emailed to candidates.

We look forward to engaging with applicants in a safe and meaningful way and embracing creative approaches to introduce applicants to the UF Department of Pediatrics, our residency program and the beautiful Gainesville community.