Massachusetts Chapter of the American College of Surgeons

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Virtual Transplant Patient-Student Interactions Due to COVID-19: The Patient Perspective
Trevor J. McBroom3, Taylor M. Coe1, Karen Regan1, Stephen Bartels1, Noelle Saillant1, Heidi Yeh1, Emil Petrusa1, Leigh Anne Dageforde1.
1Massachusetts General Hospital, Department of Surgery, Boston, MA, 2Massachusetts General Hospital, The Mongan Institute, Boston, MA, 3Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA

Background: Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, transplant patients have been particularly isolated because of their immunosuppressed state and telemedicine programs have become increasingly valuable. Therefore, we created a pilot program pairing medical students with transplant patients for semi-structured, virtual encounters and studied the merits of the program from the patient perspective.

Methods: In May 2020, transplant recipients and donors were recruited by their medical team and ultimately 14 patients were paired with students. Both students and patients were briefed prior to the interactions, and a conversation was then conducted via telephone or video conferencing. Patients were surveyed about their experiences with students and were invited to a virtual focus group. Survey text responses and focus group transcriptions were analyzed using inductive content analysis.

Results: All interactions lasted longer than 30 minutes, with 56% lasting over an hour. Eight patients completed the post-experience survey and a focus group was conducted with 10 patients. Qualitative analysis revealed that patients appreciated the opportunity to educate students on the human side of the patient experience. Patients also explained that the interaction was cathartic, and it even enabled patients to acquire new insights into their own experience. Further, patients prided themselves in helping students develop into more compassionate and empathetic physicians.

Conclusion: Pandemic restrictions have created an opportunity to implement virtual patient visits that are feasible and well-received. Patients enjoyed sharing their stories and felt empowered to help educate future physicians. Participants agreed that creating similar programs for virtual interaction would be mutually beneficial for transplant patients and students.

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