The Silver Lining in the Black Cloud of COVID-19
AbstractLittle did we imagine that the effects of COVID-19 would ultimately make us a stronger and more accessible clinic. The sudden halt of providing in-person services clouded the entire University of Exeter clinical programme with uncertainty. However, we could not simply stop our clinical provision – we had existing clients that still needed assistance, as well as students who were taking the clinic as a module. Furthermore, we wanted to continue servicing the community. To consider converting to a remote service, there are fundamental questions a university clinical programme must address: Why does the clinic exist? What are the goals of the clinic and can they still be achieved by a remote service? This paper outlines the process of converting our in-person clinic to a remote service, by detailing steps taken such as developing a remote operating student training manual, establishing a new case triage system, utilising Zoom sessions, and developing a user focused website. It reflects upon the process of finding effective ways of communicating and collaborating with students and clients, while managing and mitigating the potential barriers to technology. Both the successes and the challenges taught us more about the human connection and the human experience. Ultimately, the lessons learned from a swift shut down to reopening a fully remote clinic made us better organised, better communicators, and more accessible for clients. Once we safely return to in-person meetings, the value gained in providing a remote service will remain embedded in our offering, committing us to a hybrid service of in-person and remote meetings to provide a better service to our clients. For the next academic year, our strengthened service enables us to move seamlessly between a fully remote service and our new hybrid model with minimal disruption, should COVID-19 continue to cast a dark cloud.
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