Naturopathic Medicine’s Response to COVID-19

That which is not flexible, breaks.

Flexibility and resilience are the mantra for 2020 here at AANMC. One of the benefits of being a smaller professional community is our ability to implement changes quickly, assess what is working and adjust accordingly.

 

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We were in the midst of our annual, weeklong, in-person AANMC retreat in early March as the writing was becoming increasingly clear regarding the urgency of COVID-19. Our academic, admissions and executive committees had the added benefit of being face-to-face as we strategized next steps and how to collectively navigate the changing terrain ahead. While we were able to lay some initial framework to jumpstarting and scaling up online learning and assessment, it is fair to say none of us knew exactly how this was going to look, and for how long.

Immediately, we created emergency committees, task forces to review curriculum, clinical education, and accreditation requirements, and had regular conversations around how we would support students and staff through this crisis. Initially that took the form of communications with our academic communities, including our accreditation agency, to ensure we could conduct business in a safe manner, safeguard our residents and prospective students engaging in interviews, and the tracking of changing public health guidelines. We also engaged with our national testing agency to relay concerns around the timing and execution of exams to ensure our graduates could promptly become licensed and active members in the healthcare workforce.

Our first program to close their campus was in Washington state on March 7th. The rest followed suit shortly afterwards. Through it all we stayed in ready communication, providing support to deans and faculty as they navigated closing campuses, clinics, and moving all operations online in the span of days. Searches for the best online and educational platforms became communal work, as schools derived benefit from the sweat equity of others all rowing in the same direction.

We also turned our attention to students, to ensure they were able to continue their education safely. Plans to return to campus were roughly drawn up, recognizing that for every plan, we needed numerous scenarios with countless variables and possibilities. Like many of you, we had more than our share of Zoom fatigue but came to rely on those meetings for collective problem solving and comradery. Our staff and students have been through one challenging year, but we are thankful for our community and dedication to leading with the naturopathic principles. Our training in mental health and wellness is vital to the collective health of our school communities, and the AANMC member schools are committed, in the midst of this pandemic, to practice what we preach.

 

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