Q. How can I supervise learners who are providing virtual care?


Updated: May 19, 2020

Switching from supervising in person to virtual care is a challenge.  The College of Family Physicians of Canada, the Northern Ontario School of Medicine and the Co-operative Education and Work-Integrated Learning Canada all have tip sheets for preparing for and providing supervision when you can’t work in person.  Here are some of their recommendations with links to their full tip sheets and other resources below. 

  • The learner (and supervisor) need to be familiar with the technology they will be using to provide care and supervise etc.
  • You should try to have back-up plans for technology failures: dropped calls, poor connections, bad audio, etc. Can you use a different device? Can you switch to data from wifi or vice versa? Is there a landline available just in case?
  • Take the policies of your regulatory body/bodies into account – these could include specific requirements around consent, documentation, privacy, and limitations to your scope of practice in a virtual environment
  • Anticipate and plan for dilemmas and barriers – language barriers, patients’ technology access, how to manage when the learner is unsure of the next step, etc.
  • Create a positive, collaborative, respectful learning environment
    • Establish clear roles and responsibilities
    • Identify communication strategies
    • Define the flow of activities
    • Clarify priorities
  • Choose teaching strategies and learning opportunities geared toward the learner’s experience, preparedness, and confidence level
  • Plan to provide constructive feedback about both strengths and weaknesses during scheduled debriefs
  • Schedule regular check-ins to find out if the learner has questions or concerns they need to bring to your attention


Tips for Supervising Family Medicine Learners Providing Virtual Care
This guide focuses on the teaching and supervision considerations related to medical students and residents providing virtual care.

Best Practices: Supervising Learners While Providing Virtual Care
Best practices from Continuing Education and Professional Development, Northern Ontario School of Medicine, for clinicians providing clinical supervision in the virtual environment.

Tips for Supervising Students Remotely
Tip sheet from Co-operative Education and Work-Integrated Learning Canada


And check out the Clinical Teaching page of Teaching and Learning in the Time of COVID-19 for more resources on working with learners in a (virtual, online, distant, remote, tele) clinical setting, and the Virtual Care page of The Science of COVID-19 portal for resources about providing care virtually or remotely.

Answered By: Melanie Anderson
Last Updated: May 19, 2020 Views: 93

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UHN and Michener team members:  Please submit your questions on the challenges you face transitioning to virtual forms of teaching and learning across UHN (e.g., curriculum delivery, student support, virtual care, clinical precepting/supervising/instructing, etc.).

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