U of T researchers launch ICU training resource for COVID-19

Portrait of Stella Ng
Stella Ng, director of research in the Centre for Faculty Development at U of T, was among the U of T clinicians and researchers who created an online resource for non-intensive care clinicians during the COVID-19 pandemic (photo courtesy of Stella Ng)

Clinicians and researchers at the University of Toronto and partner institutions recently launched an educational website for non-intensive care clinicians who may have to work in critical care units during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The site will serve as a study guide and quick reference for Canadian doctors, nurses, respiratory therapists and other health professionals who have to upskill, renew or review their critical care capabilities in response to COVID-19. It will also supplement simulation- and practice-based learning on COVID-19, as well more formal curricula in development at U of T and elsewhere, through quick-reference pocket cards, short lectures, videos and additional resources.

Key topics include: airway, breathing, circulation, disability/sedation, personal protective equipment and general ICU care, as well as pandemic triage guidelines.

“This resource fills a unique niche,” says Stella Ng, director of research in the Centre for Faculty Development at U of T and the Arrell Family Chair in Health Professions Teaching at Unity Health Toronto. “Existing resources offer related content, but we’ve brought those together with a specific focus on COVID-19, for practitioners who need to learn quickly or check their knowledge.”

The site is being updated and expanded regularly, Ng adds.

Feedback has been positive from colleagues around the world, Ng says, with some educators expressing thanks because they no longer have to create similar resources in their own countries.

Ng co-led the project with Brian Cuthbertson, a professor and vice-chair of innovation and research in the department of anesthesiology and pain medicine at U of T, and a staff intensivist at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre.

Ryan Brydges, an associate professor in the department of medicine at U of T and director of research at the Allan Waters Family Simulation Centre, and Jenna Spring, a clinical associate in critical care medicine at U of T and Sunnybrook, also co-led the work.

The group collaborated with more than 35 clinicians and educators to pull together content for the site in just one week – a timeline that made it challenging to balance efficiency and educational effectiveness, says Ng.

The group mitigated that challenge with initial peer review and user feedback, which Spring says many colleagues have been quick to offer.

Another challenge was the site’s varied audience. “We expected the clinical workforce might come from very different backgrounds and professions, from surgery to anesthesiology and nursing, and with various acute care experiences,” says Spring. “So, we thought a lot about how this resource could benefit everyone and provide the highest yield.”

Spring and her colleagues will track which tools get the most use and will continue to update the site as the pandemic evolves.

“Many clinicians will have to operate in settings with few intensivists or comprehensive protocols on critical care,” says Spring. “We hope this resource will provide guidance and support in those regions as well.”

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