Clinical Assistant Professor, Ahmed shares the impacts of COVID-19 on the clinical health profession’s education

Shakeel Ahmed
Clinical Assistant Professor, Shakeel Ahmed (DPT)

How has COVID impacted health professions’ education and the courses you teach?

The pandemic has forced many educators to reinvent the wheel as far as the design and delivery of courses is concerned. In most cases, this has resulted in the replacement of traditional classroom teaching with either a completely virtual environment of learning or a hybrid model of the same where elements of online learning are integrated with conventional in-person classes. Having to revamp the courses I teach has opened newer avenues of learning experiences for the students. I teach the Cardiopulmonary Diseases course, which has elements of hands-on skills. This purely in-person lab-based section of the course had to be moved to an online format due to COVID. I used simulated patient cases and scheduled telehealth visits with patients to enhance the learning experiences of our students. The anatomy course I teach is a traditional cadaver lab-based class. This in-person lab experience was replaced by a virtual 3-dimensional anatomy learning program. Previously, such programs have been used as an adjunct to cadaver labs. However, the last year has proved that such platforms as a standalone teaching tool impart learning experiences similar to that seen in traditional cadaver labs.

What is a valuable outcome that has been a result of these adjustments? What are some of the benefits students are gaining from adapting to the virtual environment?

Learning the intricacies of telehealth and being efficient at it is, in my opinion, the most valuable outcome of these adjustments. Given how the world we live in has changed over the past 20 months, most health care providers chose to move their patient consultations to a virtual format. Even though this started as a necessity, clinicians across almost all health care professions have realized its value in providing cost-effective consultations. Although the pandemic appears to be on the decline, telehealth is here to stay. Utilizing simulated cases and actual patient interviews via a telehealth format as learning experiences has helped students acclimatize to the novel challenges facing clinicians today.

How have students have adapted to Covid precautions for Gaitor challenge?

The transition of the Gaitor Challenge back to its original in-person form this Fall has been amazing. The student leadership that coordinates and organizes this weekly activity has done an excellent job of ensuring the safety of the students and participants. Participants are screened for COVID-related symptoms every week. All participants and students are required to wear masks and practice social distancing during the two hours of this community-based walking program. We have also added a brief session of group exercises to complement walking, and our participants love it.

What is your ‘why’? Why are you passionate about physical therapy and teaching physical therapy students?

In the most simplistic terms, Physical Therapists help patients move. The common perception is that physical therapists treat patients with underlying neurological and or musculoskeletal disorders/injuries. As a Physical Therapist specializing in the rehabilitation of patients with respiratory and cardiovascular diseases, my philosophy is, if you can’t breathe well, you can’t move well. This has become more obvious in the past few months as the pandemic of COVID-19 unraveled its long-lasting impact on the ones infected and recovering from it. During my days as a clinician, helping patients breathe better was the most satisfying feeling. As an educator, I try disseminating the same passion in the Physical Therapists of the future.