By Chantal Reyna
A year ago, when I thought about technology in my career and medicine, the first thing I thought about was the electronic medical record: EPIC/Cerner/etc. Not all of these thoughts were pleasant. Since that time, my concept of technology in medicine has changed drastically. Now, I fully embrace it. The pandemic essentially forced unconventional means of communication and socializing: videoconferencing, virtual interviews, and virtual happy hours.
I knew that there was a rise of online social networking, social media, and online apps, but the instantaneous utilization of videoconferencing, as a result of social distancing, left many heads spinning. Video calls have paved the way from telephone calls to video calls to now video conferencing. We keep saying video conferencing is new, but it has been around for almost two decades, being used in other aspects of life and business. LifeSize, a video conferencing app, was established in 2003, with Blue Jeans, Zoom, WebEx, Google Meet, Microsoft Teams, and many others being created over the next decade. Social distancing has also increased my awareness of cloud storage and programs (OneDrive, Google Drive, iCloud, Box) which allow people across the globe to access and work on documents, presentations, etc with ease and often simultaneously.
From brief discussions with my colleagues, they tolerate the videoconferencing, but they cannot wait for the return of face-to-face conferences. While I agree to some extent, I believe we have an opportunity to learn new ways to encourage cooperation and expand horizons. Telephone conferences were used previously, but we know that the mute button is our friend as we multitask. In fact, while on a videoconference, we discussed that people are more engaged when there is video present rather than just audio. Does the virtual face to face increase engagement? Does it minimize multitasking? Should video rather than audio be encouraged? Regardless, the ubiquitous use of videoconferencing seems to have increased the number of meetings leading to what many have termed “Video Fatigue.” With the ability with meetings to take place every hour, more meetings appear to take place with fewer breaks in between. This can be exhausting as there is less time to stand up, stretch, get a beverage, or have a mental break. Personal well-being and mindfulness need to be encouraged during these times.
Another use for videoconferencing has arisen out of necessity. Virtual interviews for medical school, residency, fellowship, and even employment are being performed. I overhear stories that the virtual interviews have gone very well. They included scheduled breaks and more relaxed settings. Perhaps this allows interviewees to shine and have better interactions. Although there are some concerns about minimal face to face interactions, gut reactions, and discerning “a good fit”, this may give way to structured or semi-structured interviews, which have designated themes or characteristics. While some institutions have already implemented structured or semi-structured interviews, it is not uniform. Virtual interviews for all levels of training pose challenges, which warrant consideration and forethought.
For me, the most pleasant use of videoconferencing is the virtual social hour. I am a true extrovert. I gain energy from external sources, such as, talking to friends, family, and colleagues. During these times with limited contact, the ability to interact with people has been extremely difficult for me. I find myself longing to go outside anywhere just to talk to people. Fortunately, videoconferencing has provided a platform for such a purpose. In fact, I have had more virtual social hours with friends who live farther away whom I wouldn’t normally have seen.Videoconferencing provides new platforms for networking. I take this as a new opportunity.
Videoconferencing has become more routine. As our comfort with it increases, we should embrace it and expand our horizons. We should use technology to collaborate beyond the usual borders, offer additional educational opportunities, and connect with family and friends. We are better together.
Dr. Chantal Reyna is an Assistant Professor of Breast Surgical Oncology at University of Cincinnati College of Medicine. She is a fellowship trained, board certified surgeon, specializing in diseases of the breast. She received her medical degree from the University of Nevada School of Medicine, and completed general surgery residency at the University of Nevada School of Medicine, University Medical Center and Children’s Hospital of Nevada. Following her passion for breast cancer care, she pursued a fellowship in breast surgical oncology at the H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center and Research Institute in Tampa, Florida. Her research interests include minimizing axillary surgery. She has received many honors including, the University of Nevada School of Medicine Surgery Student of the Year, Chairman’s Professional Conduct Award, the University of Nevada Heart of Gold Award and Alpha Omega Alpha. She is a member of the American College of Surgeons, the Society of Surgical Oncology and the American Society of Breast Surgeons. You can find her on twitter @kprgrl3
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