Public sources of information have documented a shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) available to clinicians. This shortage puts all health care workers at increased risk for sickness and death from the COVID-19 virus. Among these workers are residents, fellows, and faculty members at ACGME-accredited institutions and programs who are working bravely with nurses and other personnel to save lives. While we, the caregivers of America, are willing to risk our health and lives to save others, it is imperative for society to reciprocate that bravery by providing us the tools to keep ourselves healthy so that we can help our patients.
The ACGME has granted a significant degree of flexibility to Sponsoring Institutions and programs to realign their resident and fellow workforce to meet the increased clinical demands created by the pandemic. This flexibility with expectations is provided consistent with the ACGME’s commitment to patient safety and resident/fellow safety. In exchange for this flexibility, the ACGME expects strict compliance with four requirements, three of which are summarized here (full descriptions can be found here):
- Residents/fellows must have proper PPE for the clinical circumstances, and training in its use.
- Residents/fellows must be properly supervised by faculty members who understand their capability and capacity in the work and the service to which they are assigned.
- Residents/fellows must strictly adhere to the ACGME work hour requirements, including limits of 80 hours per week, averaged over four weeks. These are not waived in any localities, or any circumstances.
The ACGME is sympathetic to the challenges experienced by Sponsoring Institutions and programs during this pandemic. The ACGME demands that the above standards be met for our residents and fellows, and believes it is the moral responsibility of our institutions and society to ensure that adequate PPE be available to all in the clinical care and learning environment.