A Proposed Model for a Comprehensive Virtual Subinternship in Vascular Surgery

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Journal of Vascular Surgery


Objective: In the present study, we sought to understand the challenges, advantages, and applications of a vascular surgery virtual subinternship (VSI) curriculum. Methods: Our institution hosted 25 students for two 4-week VSI rotations, one in July 2020 and one in August 2020. The students participated in a curriculum centered around the use of Zoom and telephone interactions with residents and faculty. The curriculum included selected readings, surgical videos, group didactics, and one-on-one mentorship. Anonymous pre- and postrotation self-assessments were used to ascertain the students' achievement of the learning objectives and the utility of the educational tools implemented during the rotation. The faculty and resident mentors were also surveyed to assess their experience. Results: With the exception of knot-tying techniques (P = .67), the students reported significant improvement in their understanding of vascular surgery concepts after the virtual elective (P < .05). The highest ranked components of the course were interpersonal, including interaction with faculty, mentorship, and learning the program culture. The lowest ranked components of the course were simulation training and research opportunities. The rating of the utility of aspects of the course were consistent with the ranking of the components, with faculty interaction receiving the highest average rating. The ideal amount of time for daily virtual interaction reported by the students ranged from 3 to 6 hours (median, 4 hours). Overall, most of the mentors were satisfied with the virtual course. However, they reported limited ability to assess the students' personality and fit for the program. The time spent per week by the mentors on the virtual vascular surgery rotation ranged from 2 to 7 hours (median, 4 hours). Of the 17 mentors completing the surveys, 14 reported that having a virtual student was a significant addition to their existing workload. Conclusions: Overall, our student and mentor feedback was positive. Several challenges inherent to the virtual environment still require refinement. However, the goals of a VSI are distinct and should be explored by training programs. With changes to healthcare in the United States on the horizon and the constraints resulting from the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 pandemic, implementing a virtual away rotation could be an acceptable platform in our adaptations of our recruitment strategies.

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