COVID-19 Recruitment and Training Update
We hope everyone is doing well and taking precautions for themselves and their loved ones. The University of Washington School of Medicine’s Psychology Internship Program makes psychology resident safety our top priority. Our safety policies were established at the beginning of the pandemic and have evolved to continuously meet or exceed the latest CDC recommendations. First, all trainees are exempt from in-person contact with patients who have confirmed COVID-19 during their infectious phase. Next, all trainees receive full Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to use in all their clinical settings, including surgical-grade masks and goggles if needed. Below is more specific information as to our program’s plans and a summary of our past handling of COVID-19 for the past several months by cohort.
2022-2023 Our Future COVID-19 Plans and Current Policies
Our knowledge over the past year has improved our understanding of how to safely train psychology residents during the COVID-19 Global Pandemic. Please note, this will be our 2nd year having a completely virtual recruitment season, but we are excited about the possibilities to share with applicants what our training program can offer them.
We will continue to hold a full day Virtual Open House Event on Wednesday, January 4, 2023, using Zoom. We plan to inform applicants in early December if they have been selected to attend our Virtual Open House. The Open House will be comprised of two parts which includes a morning session and afternoon session. We are asking applicants to be available for the whole day. In the morning Zoom session, applicants will be given a broad program overview, followed by a track-specific breakout overview. The morning ends with an extended question/answer session with current residents without the faculty present. During the afternoon session, applicants will have individual Zoom interviews with selected training faculty to get their questions answered about the program and training opportunities we offer.
All Psychology Residents are considered employees of Washington State and are subject to state laws mandating COVID-19 vaccinations. Recently, there was a communication sent on behalf of Mindy Kornberg, Vice President for UW Human Resources, saying that consistent with Governor Inslee’s vaccination proclamation 21-14.1, all employees of Washington higher education institutions will be required to show proof of vaccination against COVID-19, or receive an approved medical or religious exemption, no later than Monday, Oct. 18, 2021, as a condition of employment. This is consistent with the announcement that came from UW Medicine last week. Thus, we will require proof of COVID-19 vaccination status or receive an approved medical or religious exemption by the start of your internship start date of Friday, July 1, 2022.
In terms of training next year, we are planning on conducting orientation and training using virtual environments in case the pandemic continues to require social distancing. If in-person orientation is possible, we will follow the latest CDC guidelines to ensure the safest training environment. As of now, we predict that most residents working on any inpatient rotation will be conducting their training/clinical care in-person and following all safety protocols. Those residents doing outpatient work, may be allowed to conduct clinical work at the resident’s home or in any clinical office space provided, which of course would follow all safety protocols to protect the trainees, patients, and co-workers. All Psychology Residents will be expected to move to the greater Seattle-area during their internship year and will not be able to work remotely from outside of Seattle.
2021-2022 Current Training during COVID
This is the 3rd cohort of psychology residents whose training year has been affected by COVID. This past year all psychology residents moved to the Seattle area prior to their start date of July 1, 2021. We completed most of the psychology resident’s onboarding and overview training using a hybrid model of in-person and Zoom meetings. Some tracks completed their orientation and training in-person following the CDC and medical center’s policies, which included using PPE and social distancing during their rotation orientation. All outpatient clinics have moved to a hybrid model of some work via Zoom or in-person patient care in clinic. During virtual outpatient visits, some residents treat their patients remotely from their home, while others come into the outpatient clinics and conduct virtual clinical work from office space provided by the program.
All other program training activities including didactics, journal clubs, grant writing seminar, and committee meetings, have continued to hold virtual meetings but could return to in-person by next year. Residents may join from home or, if they prefer, from their clinic offices. Again, all residents receive access to PPE when needed. The UW Medicine system requires daily attestations that faculty, staff, patients, and visitors coming to the worksite do not have COVID-19 symptoms. We strictly enforce rules around not coming to work if a person has COVID-19 symptoms. UW Medicine provides COVID-19 testing for free to all staff, including residents. Based on large-scale antibody and PCR testing, UW Medicine facilities have remained safer than community settings throughout the pandemic. For more information you can see COVID update via the UW Huddle website. The University of Washington Medical Center, Harborview Medical Center, and Seattle Children’s Hospital continue to offer all their employees COVID-19 testing and vaccination appointments throughout the pandemic.
Should a psychology resident become positive with COVID-19, the program administration and training supervisors would work closely with the psychology resident to provide the appropriate accommodations to ensure a successful completion of the internship requirements. For example, if a resident tests positive, requiring a home quarantine for 10 days, the training program will attempt to shift the resident’s training-related duties to work that can be accomplished at home. If the resident becomes ill during this time and is unable to work from home, the resident could take sick leave as needed and if sick leave is accrued. If UW staff contract COVID-19 through an exposure at work, sick leave is provided by the institution. Our program has a history of successfully accommodating our psychology residents when there is a need for a resident’s personal health care.
The UW and other training sites continue to provide regular updates and timely Virtual Townhalls which provide the latest updates on COVID-19 within our medical and community environments. Likewise, the Psychology Internship Program encourages faculty and residents to discuss COVID-19 related issues during their 4 hours of scheduled supervision, weekly quick check-ins with the Training Director, and/or by scheduling personal meetings. Residents are encouraged to call the Director or Associate Director at any time for consultation on this or other matters of concerns during the internship year. Again, our goal is to provide the best and safest clinical psychology training we can offer our residents. We also provide several resources to our residents to help with their coping during the ongoing pandemic including a monthly Stewardship Meeting designed to provide a safe space to discuss their own issues. We provide departmental resources to residents to help with coping such as https://psychiatry.uw.edu/clinical-care-consultation/covid-19-resources-for-mental-well-being/.
General Vaccination Requirements
Psychology interns are required to show proof of COVID-19 vaccination, including booster vaccines, prior to beginning their training and will be expected to adhere to any additional COVID-19 requirements that may be implemented during the internship training year. Exceptions may be made only for those with approved medical or religious exemptions. All vaccine requirements are mandated by University of Washington School of Medicine policy.