WHO/Europe encourages health workers to ask “why?”
“A safe place to ask questions” is how course co-leader Ms Ana Paula Coutinho Rehse describes the online forum that she and Dr Dina Pfeifer set up to deliver trainings on managing COVID-19 patients.
Together, they have virtually travelled to more than 20 countries in the WHO European Region. With occasional assistance from colleagues, they have spoken to almost 10 000 health workers, including clinicians in Italy at the height of the outbreak. On their forum, participants get the chance to consider the scientific principles guiding current advice in an environment where they will not be judged or criticized.
“It’s what makes us stand out from other webinar providers,” Dr Pfeifer explains. “We don’t teach by hammering home a formula. We are a generation that needs to be convinced, so it’s more like a chat with a person you know.”
The teleconferences reach just under half the countries in the Region at least once per month. They last for 2 hours and offer simultaneous translations. There are no limits on the number of people who can attend and any health worker can sign up. As a result, early sessions in Albania and Kazakhstan saw over 700 people connect.
Despite this large uptake, Ms Coutinho Rehse insists that discussions with individual attendees are still possible through their question-and-answer sessions. “There is a need to strengthen the ability of health workers to turn their knowledge into skills, especially in relation to the easing of COVID-19 measures. We are trying to be practical, despite the context, with a cookbook-style approach.”
Course participants appreciate this clear, step-by-step approach, and the chance to familiarize themselves with the latest WHO guidance and strategies for the prevention and treatment of COVID-19. Most of the attendees are clinicians or nurses providing direct care. Ms Coutinho Rehse emphasizes that discussing and absorbing the scientific evidence is key to changing practices.
There is also scope to expand the content of the webinars to include clinical reviews of individual cases. “Sometimes I get a question and I sense that it’s being asked because the doctor has a particular patient in mind,” says Dr Pfeifer. “It gives you an idea of the frustration these physicians feel at not being able to do more.”
“The difficult part is that we are still in the early stages of this pandemic response and we don’t have all the answers,” she continues. “And so our advice is always primarily to keep the patient safe. We need to be very clear about that.”