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The University of British Columbia

Safe Surgical Care: Strategies During a Pandemic

The University of British Columbia via edX


This fully online course is intended to prepare surgical care providers to deliver surgical care during a pandemic, while protecting their patients, their colleagues, themselves and their families from potential infection. The course will review aspects of a pandemic that are relevant to surgical providers, different timelines of a pandemic, how provision of surgical care needs to change during these timeframes, and how to protect themselves and others from infection during the pandemic.

Surgical services are an essential part of healthcare systems. In times of pandemics, healthcare systems can be disrupted and overwhelmed, while all resources are redirected to treatment of those infected by the pandemic organism. Consequently, there needs to be a plan in place to protect essential surgical services, so that patients who require urgent and life-saving surgical care do not suffer collaterally from the impact of the pandemic.

Additionally, operating rooms are high-risk environments for the transmission of infectious diseases to healthcare workers. With the progression of the pandemic, when resources become scarce, anxiety and stress levels are high; as prevalence of the disease increases exponentially, the stress on the surgical system will rise similarly and the safe maintenance of essential surgical services will be threatened.

This course aims to inform surgical teams of the risk during pandemics, prepare them to respond appropriately, give them tools to ensure their safety, build pathways to maintain specific surgical services and anticipate and mitigate long term impacts. When appropriate, real life case studies, and clinical examples will be used. We will use examples and case studies drawn from the ongoing SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) pandemic, but also from past events like the SARS-CoV (SARS) outbreak in 2003 and the Ebola outbreak in 2014. Where possible, relevant discussion of implications to low versus high resource settings will be integrated into the course material. However, the materials reviewed in many respects are not unique to a particular resource setting.

By the end of the course, students will demonstrate capabilities in provision of surgical care services during a pandemic.

This online course is accredited for up to 20.0 Mainpro+/MOC Section 3 credits (credit conversion available for: AMA PRA Category 1 Credits™ and American Academy of Family Physicians Prescribed Credits).


This course is delivered in an online format. It can be completed at the surgical provider's own pace. It is available on a consistent and permanent basis such that material can be reviewed if needed in the future. For convenience, the course has been organized into five modules. Each module will consist of didactic content, expert podcast interviews, a recorded lecture and a quiz. You will have the opportunity to participate in discussion postings, which will be moderated weekly by a course instructor.

Module 1: What a Surgical Provider Should Know about Pandemics

Module 2: Surgical Surge Response for Pandemics (Content available on May 5, 2020)

Module 3: Protection of Surgical Healthcare Workers (Content available on May 12, 2020)

Module 4: Defining and Maintaining Essential Services (Content available on May 19, 2020)

Module 5: Global Impact and Ethical Considerations (Content available on May 26, 2020)

Clinician interviews will be used that are particularly relevant to provision of different aspects of surgical care during a pandemic.

The instructors are available on an ad hoc basis through email, but may take some time to respond given responsibilities for provision of clinical care.

It is expected to take approximately 4 hours per week to review all the material, depending on time spent on additional readings.

Taught by

Dr. Emilie Joos, MD, MSc, FRCSC and Dr. Brian Westerberg, MD, MHSc, FRCSC

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