Every July, the IWK welcomes a new group of Resident Physicians into their first year of specialized training. This month marks the beginning of their minimum four-years of learning; three-years that are guaranteed at the IWK with their fourth-year location to be determined by their sub-specialty.
Madeleine Böhrer is this year’s Pediatric Co-Chief Resident, along with her counterpart Carly Baxter. Part of Böhrer’s role as Co-Chief is liaising between the residents and the faculty, and advocating for the residents’ learning experience. While July usually brings welcome BBQs and tours of the health centre to usher in first-year resident physicians, Böhrer has already been put to the test of readjusting those traditions and is looking ahead to what the pandemic will mean for resident programs in the future.
“Resident physicians are doctors who are training in their specialty,” explains Böhrer. “This is how we become Pediatricians. In our four years of training here we rotate through all different parts of the hospital and we’re working somewhere different every month.” Böhrer is in her third year of her pediatric specialization, and lately can be found mainly on the Pediatric Medical Unit (PMU).
“Normally, we celebrate the new residency year with fun activities to help us and IWK staff get to know the new faces. This year has been a bit more challenging since those new faces are covered up with PPE more often than not.” Böhrer says it’s been a collaborative effort of the residents in coming up with creative ideas to celebrate July. They’ve sent out welcome baskets to the newcomers, had virtual meet & greets, and video chats to get to know each other.
Böhrer is originally from Germany and has lived in Halifax for over half her life. After completing her undergraduate and medical degree at Dalhousie she then decided to specialize in pediatrics and the IWK was her first choice for training. Now, three years into that training, Böhrer stepped into the role of Co-Chief Resident this past March, just one week before the COVID-19 pandemic was declared.
“It’s been quite the introduction to the role! Just like everyone in the health centre we had to face unforeseen issues such as residents not being able to come back to work from their rotation in New Brunswick, plus the general uncertainly and health concerns for the team and their families. One of our tasks as Chief Residents is to create the on-call schedules. Normally, within one year, we do 2-3 schedules each but, with the pandemic response, we’ve already met that quota within our first two months of the position.”
As everyone steps into their new normal, Resident Physicians too must readjust how to practice and learn within these new circumstances. While many care areas are still virtual when possible, “it was so exciting when I got to see my first clinic patient in person after months,” says Böhrer. “We care for children and babies and they can grow so much within the few months that we couldn’t see them in person, so it’s still very exciting to get back to our clinics.”
While some go into pediatrics because of this special connection and to exclusively work with children, Böhrer says it was her desire to work with the whole family that drew her towards the specialty. “With children you need to include the whole family, you need to build that trust and support with the care givers as well as the patient. I’ve always enjoyed that challenge of, for example, communicating with a three-year-old and their parent so that they both understand.”
Despite these uncertain times, Böhrer is still very much looking forward to this residency year and learning alongside her IWK colleagues, allied health professionals and other resident physicians. Böhrer is aiming to complete her sub-specialty in Pediatric Intensive Care and hopes to return to the IWK once her education is complete.