Spring 2021 (Volume 31, Number 1)
Virtual Small Group CME
By Tripti Papneja, MD, FRCPC
“You’re on mute,” was one of the most commonly
used phrases in 2020. Traditionally, medical
conferences, review courses and journal clubs
have always been an opportunity to learn, meet colleagues
in person, and discover new cities and restaurants.
Our realities changed dramatically with the ongoing
COVID-19 outbreak, and our need to keep up with the
latest medical knowledge and participate in continuing
medical education (CME) substantially increased.
We are a team of four rheumatologists who have been
working together for the last eight years serving patients in
the larger Brampton region. In March 2020, as our offices
closed in the first month of lockdown, the four of us came
together to facilitate transition to virtual patient care. We
utilized best evidence-based practices to provide our patients
with safe and effective virtual and in-person visits.
But we were facing an overwhelming amount of new information
and unprecedented levels of stress. In response to
this need, we resumed our bimonthly CME rounds in May
For the last few years, these bimonthly, noon rounds
have been sponsored by pharmaceutical companies, allowing
for national and international experts in different
fields from rheumatology to neurology to present the latest
information. In addition, each one of us also formulates
our learning needs/goals and takes the opportunity to research
and present those learnings to each other. Pharmaceutical
(pharma) representatives (reps), medical science
liaisons and patient support program representatives also
are given an opportunity to update the team about any
new advances including products and services. We find
that we get the most value from our interactions with pharmaceutical
sales reps in this setting, both in terms of relationship-building and product detailing.
Transitioning our rounds from in-person office meetings
at our lunch room to a virtual Zoom format or Webex
meeting was not difficult for our group. Most of us
had already acquired the right technology and improved
our technical skills to provide excellent delivery of patient
care by telemedicine. We had become more comfortable
using a variety of technology platforms and learned to
troubleshoot issues as they arose.
Over the last several months, we have been facing many
competing priorities while working from home, including
childcare, household chores and other inevitable distractions.
There is a wealth of online CME opportunities available,
but it is very challenging to discipline oneself to attend
large virtual conferences like the European League
Against Rheumatism (EULAR) meeting and the American
College of Rheumatology (ACR) meeting or review courses
from home. Therefore, it is helpful to have scheduled dedicated
learning time with our colleagues to meet CME
requirements. We have been able to review most EULAR
and ACR abstracts in depth during our noon rounds, and
present journal articles of interest and accredited learning
programs. A small group size allows ample opportunities
for dialogue and discussion where each one of us is fully
engaged, sharing and reflecting upon our clinical experiences.
These regular collaborative discussions are key
to enhancing our learning and retention of knowledge
along with testing our own ideas/approaches and attitudes
against those of others in a collegial atmosphere.
In our experience, these rounds are helpful beyond
rheumatology or medical learnings. They give us a chance
to brainstorm solutions to our common challenging patient
cases and to provide mentorship to the younger staff on the
team and provides an opportunity for a quick wellness check
for each other. Our stress is reduced as we feel respected,
appreciated and connected with each other. We are able to
build a learning culture in our office where all staff members
are encouraged to engage in knowledge-sharing practices.
Virtual small group CME rounds have been easy to implement
and are a very effective way to acquire new knowledge
and make practice changes. We will likely continue with
a combination of virtual and face-to-face CMEs post-COVID
in our office. In these unprecedented times, it is prudent to
continue to evolve our work and learning practices to deliver
optimal care and increase our well-being.
Our small group CME rounds have taken place virtually during
the pandemic. An unexpected visitor joined us last time!
Tripti Papneja, MD, FRCPC
Clinician-Teacher, University of Toronto
William Osler Hospital