COVID-19 - Update for interns


This COVID-19 update was sent to all PGY1 and PGY2 doctors by Council's Chief Executive Joan Simeon on 1 April 2020.

1 April 2020

COVID-19 - Update for interns

The Medical Council understands this is a very difficult and challenging time for all doctors and health professions who are working incredibly hard to ensure essential health services are provided during the COVID-19 pandemic.

We especially want to acknowledge and thank interns for the great contribution you are all making at the frontline. We have listened to concerns from you and your supervisors around how you will meet the usual intern programme training requirements, so we hope the information below will help provide some clarity about expectations while you work hard to help our communities.

Face to face meetings
We know many DHBs have already moved to suspend non-essential face to face meetings and some have moved to offering remote formal teaching programmes or suspended these for the time being. We are fully supportive of DHBs making their own arrangements that suit their circumstances, and you will not be disadvantaged or have your ability to gain full registration affected as a result. 

We encourage you to keep in touch with your prevocational educational supervisors regularly so they can provide you with any support and guidance you might need. Council does not regard the beginning, middle and end-of-run meetings as needing to occur in person in the current circumstance, but does expect you to continue to meet with your supervisor at these times, and record these in e-port. The meetings provide you with support and a chance to review any concerns with the attachment. This is especially important given the range of health services you may be working in as a result of COVID-19 (see below).

Working in different clinical settings
We know many DHBs are already changing the way they work in preparation for, and in response to COVID-19. The configuration of many clinical teams might change at your DHB and they may need to place you, at short notice, where service demands are most acute or to backfill for other staff called to respond to COVID-19, or needing to isolate. This could mean you are asked to work outside your accredited clinical attachments.

All interns’ scope of practice has been extended to allow you to work in “COVID-19 related health services outside of accredited clinical attachments” until 30 November 2020 (the end of the intern year). This includes placements in services that require cover, that are not directly related to the pandemic. Extensions beyond 30 November 2020 will be considered by Council if required. 

However Council is mindful of the experience difference between PGY1 doctors with provisional general registration and PGY2 doctors with general registration. As such, Council’s current position is that PGY1 interns should not be considered for placement outside of accredited attachments until further consideration and engagement is undertaken with DHBs and other stakeholders.

The extension of the scope of practice means that you may, with authorisation from the Clinical Director of Training or CMO of your DHB, work outside accredited clinical attachments in response to COVID-19. Places you might be asked to work could include mobile clinics, or community-based clinical teams such as Community Based Assessment Centres (CBACs), as well as in other services within the hospital. Each DHB is likely to configure their services differently, so there could be a wide array of other placements. 

Your prevocational educational supervisor, working with the CMO or clinical director of training and Council, will ensure that any clinical placement that you are assigned to is in an appropriate environment, ensuring that an appropriate level of support is in place.

No matter what clinical setting you are placed in, you will continue to have a clinical supervisor who will provide supervision and support for your ongoing learning. While the clinical supervisor will ensure a safe environment, safe working hours are maintained and that you are asked to do tasks that are in line with your stage of training and skill level, they do not have to be present for all of your clinical work. 

Any work you do outside of an accredited attachment for the purposes of the COVID-19 response will still count towards your learning requirements. We’re working on a process to enable you to record your learning in ePort, no matter where you are working and for how long, and will update you on that shortly.

Limiting movement
Some DHBs are considering asking their interns to remain in their current clinical attachment for the next quarter to limit movement around sites and make the best use of the skills you have gained in that clinical setting. We support this move if it helps keep you, your colleagues and patients safe.

Time requirements on clinical attachments 
Our advice to prevocational educational supervisors continues to be that they are flexible and pragmatic in applying  the 10-week time requirement. Each set of circumstances should be considered on a case by case basis, for example if you are required to self-isolate, or your attachment’s roster involves week-on, week-off type arrangements. In general, your progress, and time spent on an attachment will be considered in context and across all of your attachments, and you will not be disadvantaged because of COVID-19 circumstances.

Multisource feedback (MSF) requirements 
Council will defer the requirements to undertake MSF for the remainder of the intern year i.e. until 30 November 2020.

However, a number of you have already started the process and some have found your sessions have expired before you can complete them. If you would like to finish your MSF and your process has expired or is shortly to expire, you can email and we can arrange an extension to give you time to complete the process. Please include your MCNZ number with your request.

Supporting you
Council is working closely with District Health Boards, the Ministry of Health and other organisations and associations to ensure the medical profession is able to continue to deliver safe care to New Zealanders during the COVID-19 pandemic.

It is important that you are not disadvantaged because of issues arising from COVID-19 and are also supported during what is a very stressful time. Please stay in contact with your prevocational educational supervisors as an important resource for support and guidance.

Ngā mihi,

Joan Simeon
Chief Executive
Medical Council of New Zealand