Practical procedures are integral to neonatal care. All first-year paediatric specialist trainees (ST1s) are expected to develop essential skills from their first neonatal placement. However, many trainees join the speciality with minimal prior exposure. With recent changes in junior doctors’ contracts, reduced working hours and evolving clinical practices, trainees may not get enough clinical exposure to acquire required skills. Simulation is recognized as essential to bridge this training gap . A practical skills course developed in 2018 has been running with consistently good feedback. However, during the COVID-19 pandemic, it was suspended.
The aim of the study was to adapt neonatal skills training to virtual delivery.
In September 2020, we trialled a half-day virtual training course for new trainees on core topics. The first part included ‘Human Factors’ followed by ‘Stabilization of the premature infant’ using a pre-recorded simulation followed by a live debrief. The second part covered ‘intubation and difficult airway’ followed by ‘vascular access’. We used interactive lectures and pre-recorded demonstrations. A full-day course was then organized for new trainees in March 2021. We included additional sessions on ‘Newborn Infant Physical Examination’ (NIPE), ‘chest drain insertion’ and ‘journal club’, including sign posting to the Critical Appraisal Skills Programme (CASP). Interaction was encouraged to facilitate peer bonding. A Paediatric Trainee Committee representative also joined to outline the support available for trainees. We followed a similar structure to the first course but added live simulation demonstrations of equipment and techniques.
Seventeen trainees attended the full-day course. A number of candidates rating the sessions as extremely useful were 16 for ‘Stabilization of the premature infant’ and ‘intubation and difficult airway’, 14 for ‘Human Factors’ and ‘NIPE’, 12 for ‘vascular access’ and ‘chest drain insertion’ and 11 for Journal club. Trainees commented positively on the videos, equipment demonstration, level of interactivity and overall usefulness of the course. Nine trainees commented on desire for additional face-to-face training.
After balancing the safety and learning needs of trainees, we adapted an established face-to-face skills day for virtual delivery during the COVID-19 pandemic. Whilst we recognize that virtual training is not a substitute for doing, we were able to maintain essential education during highly pressured times. Feedback demonstrates that our virtual teaching programme was well received and useful. It also emphasizes the value of actual practice and the urgency to restore hands-on training as soon as possible.