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COVID‑19 and medical educator perceptions: Sense-making during times of crisis

I Govender
C Jacobs


Background. Although crises are generally considered uncommon, health professions education (HPE) literature gives evidence of repeated and ongoing crises. This has been most recently demonstrated by the global impact of COVID‑19. Crisis management literature proposes that such recurrent crises are opportune moments for learning. While there has been much literature published that describes changes made to the format of HPE amid COVID‑19, there has been little attention given to the perceptions of medical educators. Medical educators’ experiences may serve as a resource to uncover lessons that may have been learnt during this period.
Objective. To address the gap in the literature, by analysing the perceptions of medical educators at the University of Cape Town (UCT) during the COVID‑19 pandemic of 2020-2021.
Methods. A qualitative case-study approach was adopted. Rich data were collected from four medical educators using semi-structured interviews and a focus group discussion, and then analysed using a reflexive thematic approach.
Results. The data indicated that educators grappled with a multitude of struggles during the COVID‑19 pandemic. These were analysed thematically as: tensions with technology, balancing expectations, and the distribution of support. However, surface-level challenges faced by educators seem to belie a much deeper personal struggle.
Conclusion. The data suggest that whether any learning occurs and what is learnt are embedded within the process of sense-making. If institutions of higher education aim to adopt proactive responses to crises, then further research – as well as support for these sense-making processes during crises – should form a critical part of overall institutional preparedness.

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