Unmasking communication during COVID-19

Unmasking communication during COVID-19

As face masks become ubiquitous in our health-care practice due to the COVID-19 pandemic, communication between the patient and health-care provider has become harder than ever before. The challenges posed by COVID-19 have highlighted various areas of deficiencies in the health care industry as well as heightened anxiety among health-care providers as well as patients. Communication with patients has become particularly challenging and ever so more important than before.

Imagine the plight of a patient struggling to breathe, being greeted by someone in full PPE, struggling to understand your muffled speech through the mask amidst the background noise of oxygen hissing through a breathing mask. Earlier, your smile would have worked to ease some of the anxiety by coming across as approachable and friendly; however, your face mask has cost you a brave soldier in your battle of gaining trust. The situation is worse in the elderly, frail, and cognitively impaired patients who may rely on lip-reading and facial expressions to communicate.

Health care workers are forced to have difficult conversations of do-not-resuscitate orders, advance care planning, and break bad news while wearing a face mask and PPE, creating a barrier for effective communication with patients and their family members.

If you have previously relied on a firm handshake and a smile to lessen the anxiety of patients but are now finding it challenging to have clear communication, here are few ways to improve communication with patients.

Unmasking communication during COVID-19
Cite this article as: Neha Hudlikar, UAE, "Unmasking communication during COVID-19," in International Emergency Medicine Education Project, August 10, 2020, https://iem-student.org/2020/08/10/unmasking-communication-during-covid-19/, date accessed: December 11, 2023

Who Takes Care of You While You Take Care of Others?

Who Takes Care of You While You Take Care of Others

The COVID-19 Pandemic has changed our lives in so many ways that sometimes it is difficult to remember how life was without all these changes. We got used to the “new normal”, which includes a constant concern about contamination, economic crisis, and isolation. When we consider emergency physicians and other healthcare professionals, technical and scientific challenges regarding the pandemic response are also added to the equation.

Recently we completed three months since the first case of COVID-19 in Brazil and, since then, more than 300.000 have been infected and at least 23.000 people have died. These astonishing numbers could be 8 to 10 times higher if it wasn’t for under-notification¹ in countryside areas. The psychological effect of these numbers can be seen every day while people try to cope with the situation, and it may be even more intense in those who are in the frontline of the healthcare system. With this in mind, the question emerges: Who takes care of you while you take care of others?

What are the major psychological symptoms we can expect in healthcare providers three months into the COVID-19 pandemic?

After 3 months of COVID-19, we are not dealing with acute and immediate psychological response anymore; this next phase can be called assimilation, where we already understand better the new workflows, protocols and forms of living. However, we are still in a context of insecurity, fear, and loss of control over things we used to know how to deal with. The major psychological symptoms that are expected and considered to be normal in this context are:2

  • Fear (of getting sick and dying, losing people, being socially stigmatized, being separated from people you care about and transmitting the virus to other people);
  • Stress reactions such as anger, anxiety, confusional states, apathy
  • The recurrent feeling of impotence, irritability, anguish, and sadness;
  • Behavioral changes: changes in appetite and sleep habits, and interpersonal conflicts

Which strategies we can use to minimize these effects?

It’s very important to understand these reactions as being normal reactions in the context we currently live in. However, that doesn’t mean there is nothing we can do to ease them. It’s very important to intervene as early as possible as a way to prevent the chronification of those symptoms and progression to psychological disorders. Here are some strategies that can help2:

  • Recognize these feelings and accept them as real and valid; try to talk about them with people you trust
  • Think back to the strategies and tools you used in moments of crisis in the past. When it comes to dealing with difficulties, everybody has some preferred methods, which were tried and worked. Resume those actions that have worked for you and try to find ways of applying them to this new context
  • Keep your social network active by establishing -even if virtual- contact with family, friends, and colleagues,
  • Avoid watching, reading or listening to news that makes you feel anxious or distressed; look for information only from reliable sources
  • Avoid using alcohol and drugs as coping mechanisms
  • Ask for help if you find your strategies inefficient

There are lots of health professionals who are self-isolating from their families to prevent “bringing the enemy home”. How can self-isolation affect our mental health?

Isolating from family and friends means physically isolating from your support network. It’s relevant, in this context, to understand that physical isolation doesn’t mean affective and emotional isolation. As said before, it’s important to find new ways to be present in people’s lives and keep the social network active. Maintaining these contacts is also a way to ensure that when you leave the hospital and arrive at your rest place, you can actually disconnect from the routine and difficult times by talking to family members and listening about their day, their stories, and so on. In this moment of isolation and fear, we also witness the stigmatization of healthcare professionals3. People can direct their feelings of fear and uncertainty at health professionals, potentially causing behaviors of avoidance, rejection, aggressiveness and violence. If you find yourself in this situation, it’s key to understand that these reactions are not directed towards you personally, but to the global state of insecurity and fear, we are currently living.

Have you seen any changes in the problem-solving and decision-making capabilities of the physicians in the ED due to the stressed environment?

Interpersonal conflict, due to constant changes in protocols and workflows is expected in times of crisis and might be affecting problem-solving and decision-making processes. Here are some strategies to prevent it:

  • Try to maintain a supportive work environment, including designated spaces to eat and rest
  • Have moments to let the team talk about their mental state to help to develop a sense of community
  • Alternate workers between activities of high and low attention and tension, if possible,
  • Recognize effort made and encourage mutual respect among professionals
  • Map and disseminate mental health care actions. Even if most workers will not need individual assistance, knowing that there are services that they can rely on when needed makes them feel supported

Finally, do you have any special tips for emergency physicians who are in the frontline against COVID-19 at this moment?

It’s important to know and to understand when the frequency and intensity of the normal symptoms indicate that you should see a specialized mental health professional.2

  • Persistent symptoms
  • Intense suffering
  • Risk of complications, especially suicidal ideation and substance abuse
  • Significant impairment of social and daily functioning
  • Significant difficulties in family, social or work life
  • Major depression, psychosis, and PTSD are conditions that require specialized attention

We know that healthcare workers bear considerable suffering and symptoms, but usually, this group of people refuses to seek or receive help. Among others, the main reason is that having difficulties to deal with all the emotional demands is -wrongly- seen as a sign of weakness or incompetence. At this moment, it’s more important than ever to understand that we can only take care of others if we, first, take care of ourselves. And taking care of our mental health is as important as our physical health to be at the front lines of COVID-19 response.

Gabriele H. Gomes

Psychologist, current Critical Care & Emergency Psychology Resident at Hospital de Clínicas de Porto Alegre (HCPA)

References and Further Reading (Portuguese only)

Cite this article as: Arthur Martins, Brasil, "Who Takes Care of You While You Take Care of Others?," in International Emergency Medicine Education Project, August 5, 2020, https://iem-student.org/2020/08/05/who-takes-care-of-you-while-you-take-care-of-others/, date accessed: December 11, 2023

COVID-19; Reflecting on a Globalized Response

COVID-19; Reflecting on a Globalized Response

As I write this is, it has been 200 days since the first reports in China came out regarding an unspecified viral illness in Wuhan, China. What is now the pandemic of COVID-19 has spread around the world, and in history books and our collective memory, the year 2020 will forever be closely associated with this virus. There have been nearly 14 million confirmed cases around the world and nearly 600,000 known deaths from COVID-19. Some countries have done incredibly well with containment measures, while others continue to see case counts grow every day.

It has been fascinating to see how the outbreak has had different impacts in communities around the world, including how local and global responses have efficiently controlled or been unable to contain this novel public health problem. Prevention and mitigation strategies continue to form the foundation of public health management of this outbreak. The capacity for any country or locality to provide the most invasive supportive care is widely variable, and even when it is available mechanical ventilation is certainly not a panacea as COVID-19 case-survival rates in those being mechanically ventilated have been low (from 14% to 25%).

At the core of the variable outcomes seems to be a mix of sociological issues: a mix of personal beliefs, geography, politics, socio-economics and health infrastructure which lead to vastly different outcomes around the globe.

The accumulation of more epidemiological data over the past 200 days has improved our collective understanding of the COVID-19 virus, as today we have improved models and a better understanding of the rates of asymptomatic carriers (estimated at 40%) and mortality rates (1.4%-15.4%). Yet still, uncertainties and local variability (even within countries) have made an accurate calculation of the COVID-19 basic reproductive number (R0; the number of people who are infected by a single disease carrier) difficult. In the early stage of the outbreak in Wuhan, R0 calculation ranged from 1.4-5.7, and some have suggested that instead of single R0 value, modellers should consider using ongoing contact tracing to gain a better range of transmissibility values.

We have seen how prevention strategies such as hand-washing, face-masking, and physical distancing can impact local and disseminated disease spread. While many communities have come together through a collective approach to lock-downs and universal masking measures, other localities have struggled to get adequate levels of citizen compliance. Others have struggled with obtaining testing supplies. Certain political systems allow for streamlined and unified directives while others have made it difficult to provide adequate centralized coordination.

As the COVID-19 pandemic has spread to almost every country in the world, outbreaks are smoldering in much of the global south. While the United States continues to see rising numbers of cases with numerous states confronting ongoing daily record high incident cases, other countries such as Brazil are seeing similar upward trends. At the global level, the curve of daily incident cases seemed to have “flattened” and held steady through much of April and into May with aggressive seemingly worldwide measures. However, since the last days of May, global incident cases have been again steadily increasing. This is likely due to a variety of reasons but is linked, at least in part, to efforts to reopen economies and return to pre-pandemic routines and lifestyles.

covid-19 daily cases
Source: Johns Hopkins University Coronavirus Resource Center https://coronavirus.jhu.edu/map.html, accessed July 17, 2020

As an American citizen and a physician with training in public health, it has been both interesting and frustrating to see the how some countries (including my own) have had deficiencies in dealing with testing and basic prevention (such as mandatory universal masking). While I don’t want to engage in political rhetoric or cast blame in any one place, I do think it is instructive to point out that in the United States (or anywhere else for that matter) the sociological factors of personal preferences and autonomy, geography, and local politics have had an overwhelming influence in determining the progress of the pandemic.

Quarantining has always been a unique problem that sits at the intersection of personal autonomy and communal wellbeing, and is implemented and respected by citizens in different ways around the world. It would seem, at least anecdotally, that cultures with an emphasis on personal independence and autonomous choice have had greater difficulty with containment or in obtaining high levels of compliance with masking and distancing measures, even when compared to other localities with similar socio-economic situations.

These sociological factors are key to responding to and managing any epidemic health concern. We have come to see that in our globalized world, our ability and desire to work together towards a common goal, even at the cost of personal sacrifice, will determine our ability to control both the COVID-19 pandemic and the next health crisis of the future.

Public health education and communication, it would seem, is at the crux to getting collective buy-in and global participation.

Unfortunately, as with so many things these days, such issues can be easily politicized and cause fractured and disparate approaches to response. In our globalized world, this coronavirus outbreak is unlikely to be the last public health crisis we must face as a worldwide community.

As thoughts turn towards what is to come, from vaccine development and distribution to numerous long-term economic impacts, we are not nearing the end of this outbreak yet.

The incidence curve is growing, and there is much work left to be done. My hope is that as we move into the second half of 2020, our global community can continue to find ways to improve communication and coordination in order to come together to approach and control this pandemic collectively. The fate of this outbreak, and likely the next, hangs in the balance.

Cite this article as: J. Austin Lee, USA, "COVID-19; Reflecting on a Globalized Response," in International Emergency Medicine Education Project, August 3, 2020, https://iem-student.org/2020/08/03/covid-19-reflecting-on-a-globalized-response/, date accessed: December 11, 2023

COVID-19 Tailored RSI Bulletin

COVID-19 Tailored RSI Bulletin


  • Safety first!
  • Perform Hand Hygiene.
  • Enhanced PPE is required for Aerosol-generating Medical Procedures (AGMP): N95 respirator or powered air-purifying respirator (PAPR) device, face shield or goggles, gown, and double gloves.
  • Minimize providers in the room to the number necessary to provide safe intubation.
  • Airborne infection isolation rooms, if available.


  • Have an intubation plan; use a checklist.
  • Assess for intubation difficulty.
  • Early preparation of drugs and equipment.
  • All necessary equipment is assembled inside the room.
  • Standard monitoring.
  • Connect viral/bacterial filter to circuits and manual ventilators.
  • Use a closed suctioning system.
  • A rescue plan for intubation failure
  • Ensure team dynamics


Non-bagging approach:

  • Five minutes of pre-oxygenation with oxygen 100% using a non-rebreather mask.
  • Place hydrophobic filter between facemask and breathing circuit.
  • Recommended by experts due to less aerosol generation.
  • Might be non-sufficient.

Avoid the use of high-flow nasal oxygenation and mask CPAP or BiPAP due to a greater risk of aerosol generation.

EMCRIT mentioned the following approaches for Pre-oxygenation

NIPPV (Might be acceptable in a negative pressure room)

  • A 2-tube system (closed circuit) with two viral filters. 
  • Place on CPAP/PSV, leave the PSV at 0, PEEP only if the patient’s saturations do not come up with 100% fiO2.

BVM with Viral Filter

  • Turn BVM flow up to the flush rate.
  • Place a NIPPV mask to allow good seal with you away from the patient or just hold two hands on the mask in a thumbs-forward grip from safer airways.
  • The addition of nasal cannula underneath will allow CPAP with the PEEP valve if needed. 
  • Turn NC up to 4-6 L/m if this used. 

Paralysis and Induction

  • High-dose paralytic to inhibit cough.
  • Appropriate induction agents.


  • Head extension, often with flexion of the neck on the body.
  • Full sniffing position with cervical spine extension and head elevation.

Placement of Tube

  • The most experienced physician should perform the intubation.

Use video laryngoscopy rather than regular laryngoscope; to decrease exposure

  •  to patient’s aerosols.
  • Allow the needed time after administration of the NMBA to ensure relaxation.
  • Confirm placement of tube by visualization and EtCO2 rather than auscultation.
  • Apply viral filter prior to bagging or connection to ventilation.

Post-Intubation Management

  • Sedation and analgesia as indicated.
  • ARDS ventilation setting with smaller tidal volumes (6 ml/kg of IBW)

Post Procedure

  • Decontaminate and disinfect all airway equipment.
  • Appropriate doffing of PPE. 
  • Hand hygiene before and after all procedures.
Cite this article as: Israa M Salih, UAE, "COVID-19 Tailored RSI Bulletin," in International Emergency Medicine Education Project, July 3, 2020, https://iem-student.org/2020/07/03/covid-19-tailored-rsi-bulletin/, date accessed: December 11, 2023

References and Further Reading

COVID-19 Clinical Readiness Course For Medical Students

COVID-19 clinical readiness course

Dear students,

We are pleased to open our fourth course for you; iEM/Lecturio – COVID-19 Clinal Readiness Course.

As we did in the EMCC course, we collaborated with Lecturio to provide you an excellent course to improve your knowledge in the clinical applications in COVID-19 cases.

The interactive course content is prepared by Lecturio’s expert educators Dr. Eisha Chopra, Dr. Julie Rice, Dr. Daniel Sweiden, Dr. Julianna Jung from John Hopkins University, Department of Emergency Medicine. Assessments of the course were prepared by Dr. Arif Alper Cevik from United Arab Emirates University, College of Medicine and Health Sciences.

One more time, we thank Lecturio for their amazing resources and support to our social responsibility initiative to help medical students in need during these challenging times.

As a part of our social responsibility initiative, iem-course.org will continue to provide free open online courses related to emergency medicine. We hope our courses help you to continue your education during these difficult times.

Please send us your feedback or requests about courses.

We are here to help you.

Best regards.

Arif Alper Cevik, MD, FEMAT, FIFEM

Arif Alper Cevik, MD, FEMAT, FIFEM

iEM Course is a social responsibility initiative of iEM Education Project

Course Length

This course requires 2-4 hours of study time. The course content will be available for 7 days after the enrolment.

Who can get benefit from this course?

  • Junior and senior medical students (course specifically designed for these groups)
  • Interns/Junior emergency medicine residents/registrars


The candidates who successfully pass final summative assessment of the course will be provided course completion certificate.

Other Free Online Courses

Cite this article as: Arif Alper Cevik, "COVID-19 Clinical Readiness Course For Medical Students," in International Emergency Medicine Education Project, June 26, 2020, https://iem-student.org/2020/06/26/covid-19-clinical-readiness-course/, date accessed: December 11, 2023

Emergency Department Crowding: A conceptual model

Overcrowding is a serious problem in healthcare systems all around the world. In particular, Emergency Departments, which, by definition, deal with acute and unscheduled patients, are more susceptible to overcrowding. Even the parts of the world with developed hospital systems suffer from ED overcrowding, the burden is heavier in the developing world. Emergency department crowding is a significant barrier that prevents patients from receiving adequate and timely care.

Researchers of this field and policymakers had recognized the importance of the problem for ages, but COVID-19 pandemic highlighted it once again. Asplin et al’s conceptual model, published in Annals of Emergency Medicine in August 2003, continues to be relevant today and helps all stakeholders of emergency care -researchers, policymakers and administrators alike- to come up with sounding solutions. According to this conceptual model (See figure below) causes of ED overcrowding is divided into 3 independent components, namely, input causes, throughput causes and output causes.

At different times, multiple components occur to some extent in all acute care centres. This conceptual model provides an overview of overcrowding causes so that administrators may review what’s failing and develop more efficient emergency department operations and policies. Subsequently, it will help to reduce ED crowding. Also, learning how ED, as a workplace, works on an organizational level has the potential to increase medical graduates’ interest in research and policymaking, thus, feedback on system design from diverse stakeholders.

The input-throughput-output conceptual model of ED crowding adapted from Asplin et al. August 2003


  • Asplin BR, Magid DJ, Rhodes KV, Solberg LI, Lurie N, Camargo CA Jr. A conceptual model of emergency department crowding. Ann Emerg Med. 2003;42(2):173‐180. doi:10.1067/mem.2003.302
Cite this article as: Temesgen Beyene, Ethiopia, "Emergency Department Crowding: A conceptual model," in International Emergency Medicine Education Project, June 19, 2020, https://iem-student.org/2020/06/19/emergency-department-crowding-a-conceptual-model/, date accessed: December 11, 2023

COVID-19 and Hydroxychloroquine

Authors: Nardos Makkonen, MD and Amita Sudhir, MD
University of Virginia, USA

Life does not choose the logically best design to meet a new situation. It adapts what already exists...The result, unlike the clean straight lines of logic, is often irregular, messy.

In The Great Influenza, The story of the Deadliest Pandemic in History, the author John Barry states, “Life does not choose the logically best design to meet a new situation. It adapts what already exists…The result, unlike the clean straight lines of logic, is often irregular, messy.” This has never been more evident than now as the way we practice medicine changes fundamentally in the face of a new pandemic. While the news of a novel coronavirus spread, many in the scientific community found themselves struggling to find answers. In the wake of the pandemic, multiple studies were published aiming to identify risk factors, disease progression, and most importantly, therapeutic options.

As the number of positive cases grew exponentially, so did the urgency to find an effective therapy. Scientists and medical professionals were tasked with finding a swift solution. In addition to vaccine development, trials looking at the effectiveness of previously existing antiviral medications against SARS-CoV-2 were underway. A number of in-vitro models showed promising results – existing antiviral and antimalarial medications, including Hydroxychloroquine and Remdesivir, were noted to have cytotoxic properties against the novel coronavirus (1, 2). At first, it was difficult to tell how this could shape the management of affected patients. Then came a study that would change the global conversation on COVID therapies.


An article published on March 20th in the International Journal of Antimicrobial Agents looked at the effect of hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin on COVID positive patients. The study was an open-label, non-randomized clinical trial of thirty-six patients; twenty patients were treated with hydroxychloroquine, while sixteen were in the control group. The article looked at SARS–CoV-2 clearance from the nasopharynx after six days. Higher frequency of viral clearance was reported in the treatment group, hydroxychloroquine (plus azithromycin if deemed necessary) versus an untreated control group [14 out of 20 (70%) vs. 2 out of 16 (13%); P < 0.001]. The authors concluded that the addition of azithromycin to hydroxychloroquine was significantly more efficient for virus elimination (3). Multiple articles were published that questioned various aspects of the original article. Nonetheless, the original excitement surrounding the medication led to its widespread use for treatment of COVID positive patients in various hospitals across the world. However, in the ensuing months, multiple additional studies have been published that have informed our understanding of hydroxychloroquine as a treatment option for SARS–CoV-2, suggesting that it may not be the panacea that the initial study suggested it is.

One of the first randomized control trials on the topic was a multicenter, open-label, randomized control trial looking at 150 patients. Seventy-five patients were assigned to hydroxychloroquine plus standard of care, while the other 75 were assigned to standard of care alone. The primary endpoint of this study was looking at viral clearance by 28 days. The results suggested hydroxychloroquine was not associated with a significantly higher probability of negative conversion than the standard of care alone (4). In another retrospective cohort study of 1438 patients hospitalized in metropolitan New York, treatment with hydroxychloroquine, azithromycin, or both did not result in a significantly lower in-hospital mortality (5). A meta-analysis looked at eleven studies, including three randomized controlled trials and eight observational studies. Here, 2354 patients received hydroxychloroquine alone or in combination, while 1952 did not. The study found no significant difference in clinical progression, mortality, or viral clearance by RT-PCR among patients with COVID-19 infection who are treated with hydroxychloroquine compared with control groups (6). In addition, a significantly higher incidence of adverse events associated with hydroxychloroquine use across a number of studies was noted.

Adverse effects were also noted in a multinational registry analysis of the use of hydroxychloroquine or chloroquine with or without a macrolide for treatment of COVID-19. The registry comprised data from 671 hospitals in six continents. The findings show no confirmed benefit of hydroxychloroquine or chloroquine when used alone or with a macrolide on in-hospital outcomes for COVID-19. Notably, each of these drugs was found to be associated with decreased in-hospital survival and increased frequency of ventricular arrhythmias (7). Importantly, the Lancet has since released a letter of concern on 6/2/20 regarding its publication of this multinational registry analysis (8).

Beyond its potential therapeutic use for known COVID positive patients, hydroxychloroquine was touted as beneficial for prophylactic use. Prior to the publication of significant studies on the prophylactic efficacy of the medication, the Indian Council of Medical Research, under the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, recommended chemoprophylaxis with hydroxychloroquine for asymptomatic health-care workers treating patients with suspected or confirmed COVID-19, and for asymptomatic household contacts of confirmed cases. The announcement led some in the scientific community to express concern, stating “the drug is untested, the benefits unknown, and the risks not negligible” (9). This concern was substantiated in subsequent studies. A recent randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial analyzed the effect of hydroxychloroquine in postexposure prophylaxis. The study included 821 asymptomatic participants. 87.6% of the participants (719 of 821) had a high-risk exposure to a confirmed COVID contact. The primary outcome was symptomatic illness confirmed by a positive molecular assay or, if testing is not available, COVID-related symptoms. The results noted no significant difference in the primary outcome between participants receiving hydroxychloroquine (49 out of 414 [11.8%]) and those receiving placebo (58 out of 407 [14.3%]) (10). Additionally, side effects were noted to be more common with hydroxychloroquine than with placebo (40.1% vs. 16.8%).

On May 27th, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, when asked about hydroxychloroquine, stated that “The scientific data is really quite evident now about the lack of efficacy.” As of now, the World Health Organization is planning on resuming Hydroxychloroquine clinical trials after previously halting studies due to safety concerns (11). One adage often repeated in medicine is that what we learn now may not apply in 10 years. In the age of COVID, what we learn now may not apply in the next few months or even weeks. Seeing images of ventilated patients, and at times dead bodies across hospital hallways have filled us all with a deep desire for a quick fix. As physicians, we are likely to grasp at any straws that might help us fight this disease; we have to be careful to look critically at the evidence. Hope springs for a cure with each new study, but we should apply the same rigorous scientific methodology to COVID that we have developed for other diseases. As we move towards alleviating the suffering of this pandemic, it is essential to avoid falling into pitfalls and causing more harm along the way.

References and Further Reading

  1. Wang M, Cao R, Zhang L, et al. Remdesivir and chloroquine effectively inhibit the recently emerged novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) in vitro. Cell Res. 2020;30(3):269-271.
  2. Liu J, Cao R, Xu M, et al. Hydroxychloroquine, a less toxic derivative of chloroquine, is effective in inhibiting SARS-CoV-2 infection in vitro. Cell Discov. 2020;6:16.
  3. Gautret P, Lagier JC, Parola P, et al. Hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin as a treatment of COVID-19: results of an open-label non-randomized clinical trial. Int J Antimicrob Agents. 2020;:105949.
  4. Tang W, Cao Z, Han M, et al. Hydroxychloroquine in patients with mainly mild to moderate coronavirus disease 2019: open label, randomised controlled trial. BMJ. 2020;369:m1849.
  5. Rosenberg ES, Dufort EM, Udo T, et al. Association of Treatment With Hydroxychloroquine or Azithromycin With In-Hospital Mortality in Patients With COVID-19 in New York State. JAMA. 2020;
  6. Chacko J, Brar G, Premkumar R. Hydroxychloroquine in COVID-19: A systematic review and meta-analysis. 2020. doi:10.1101/2020.05.14.20101774
  7. Mehra MR, Desai SS, Ruschitzka F, Patel AN. Hydroxychloroquine or chloroquine with or without a macrolide for treatment of COVID-19: a multinational registry analysis. The Lancet. 2020. doi:10.1016/s0140-6736(20)31180-6.
  8. Editors TL. Expression of concern: Hydroxychloroquine or chloroquine with or without a macrolide for treatment of COVID-19: a multinational registry analysis. The Lancet. 2020. doi:10.1016/s0140-6736(20)31290-3.
  9. Rathi S, Ish P, Kalantri A, Kalantri S. Hydroxychloroquine prophylaxis for COVID-19 contacts in India. Lancet Infect Dis. 2020;
  10. Boulware DR, Pullen MF, Bangdiwala AS, et al. A Randomized Trial of Hydroxychloroquine as Postexposure Prophylaxis for Covid-19. N Engl J Med. 2020;
  11. BerkeleyJr. World Health Organization resumes coronavirus trial on malaria drug hydroxychloroquine after examining safety concerns. CNBC. https://www.cnbc.com/2020/06/03/world-health-organization-resumes-coronavirus-trial-on-malaria-drug-hydroxychloroquine-after-safety-concerns.html. Published
Cite this article as: Amita Sudhir, USA, "COVID-19 and Hydroxychloroquine," in International Emergency Medicine Education Project, June 15, 2020, https://iem-student.org/2020/06/15/covid-19-and-hydroxychloroquine/, date accessed: December 11, 2023

Mental Practice: A tool for skill training during COVID pandemic

mental practice

COVID-19 pandemic has caused drastic changes in personal and educational lives of medical students, who hold a unique position between being a student and a part of the health care workforce (1). The role of senior medical students who are on the brink of becoming licenced physicians, in particular, have been discussed thoroughly by experts from the perspective of safety, education and the need for skilled workforce. As the discussions continue, medical students got to stay home – as it should be, in my opinion – at least in most countries. Remote learning became the primary training modality all in a sudden.

Remote learning, even though the safest option, is not free of problems. Studying from home and continuing daily routine require a strong determination, especially when people have a lot on their minds. But most of all, clinical and procedural skills are hard, if not impossible, to translate into online learning. Medical students need alternative methods to physical practice of clinical and procedural skills, other than reading instructions and watching procedural videos. Mental practice may offer a solution for medical students who want to sharpen or at least retain procedural skills at home.

What is Mental Practice?

Mental practice refers to the introspective rehearsal or visualisation of psychomotor skills (2). It has been called many names including ‘‘imaginary practice,’’ ‘‘covert rehearsal,’’ ‘‘conceptualization,’’ or ‘‘mental imagery rehearsal’.’ It has been researched extensively in sports literature and is shown to provide both cognitive and motivational benefits (3). Can it do the same trick for medical training, though? At this point, being sceptical is perfectly normal. Let’s look into the literature.


The History of Mental Practice

Surprisingly, even as early as the 1900s, the scientists were discussing the effect of ideational elements in motor learning (4). In the 1930s, pioneer researchers had already experimented on rats that were deprived of kinesthetic impulses by sectioning of the cervical cord and discovered that even they could not run the maze as perfectly as normal rats in terms of motor skills, they still learned it (5, 6, 7). They asserted that kinesthetic impulses were neither sufficient nor necessary in learning of the motor skill. A few years later in 1940, researchers observed ideational clues helped human subjects to learn basic motor skills making fewer attempts, committing fewer errors, and spending less time (8). Subsequent studies tested mental practice against the physical in basketball free throws, dart games, and ring toss (9, 10). All reached the same conclusion: Mental practice was effective, even about as effective as physical practice in learning of motor skills.

What About Medical Training?

Experiments on the use of mental practice in the area of medical training started a few decades later. One of the first studies examined the use of mental practice in the pelvic examination. The students who did 5-minute audio-guided mental practices before and after the physical practice on a model performed significantly better at skill examination (11). Research in this area has gained momentum recently. Mental practice was shown to facilitate medical students’ learning of suturing, venipuncture, cricothyroidotomy, and lumbar puncture (12-15). In some studies, it performed as effective as physical practice, and superior to studying text (12, 16). 

The evidence shows that mental practice can be a strong and free learning tool. It can serve as a satisfactory substitute for physical practice in the days of the pandemic, which forces medical students to stay at home. But, let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Mental practice does not provide all of the answers. Remember the rats: They still needed motor practice to run perfectly and as fast as normal rats (7). In other words, you still need the train your muscles to operate smoothly what you have learned. Even after years of mental practice, one could never score a free throw if he or she is lacking the muscle strength to make the ball reach the basket. Admittedly, most medical procedures do not require large motor skills or much strength, but they still demand well-trained small muscles. However, until the world figures out how to put a medical student and a simulator together in the same room safely, the mental practice seems like a solid way of learning new procedures.


  1. Miller, D. G., Pierson, L., & Doernberg, S. (2020). The role of medical students during the COVID-19 pandemic. Annals of Internal Medicine.
  2. Oxendine, J.B. (1968). Psychology of motor learning. Englewood Cliffs, New York: Prentice-Hall.
  3. Rogers, R. G. (2006). Mental practice and acquisition of motor skills: examples from sports training and surgical education. Obstetrics and Gynecology Clinics33(2), 297-304.
  4. Watson, J. B. (1907). Kinæsthetic and organic sensations: Their role in the reactions of the white rat to the maze. The Psychological Review: Monograph Supplements8(2), i.
  5. Lashley, K. S., & Ball, J. (1929). Spinal conduction and kinesthetic sensitivity in the maze habit. Journal of Comparative Psychology9(1), 71.
  6. Ingebritsen, O. C. (1932). Maze learning after lesion in the cervical cord. Journal of Comparative Psychology14(2), 279.
  7. Honzik, C. H. (1936). The role of kinesthesis in maze learning. Science84(2182), 373-373.
  8. Buegel, H. F. (1940). The effects of introducing ideational elements in perceptual-motor learning. Journal of Experimental Psychology27(2), 111.
  9. Vandell, R. A., Davis, R. A., & Clugston, H. A. (1943). The function of mental practice in the acquisition of motor skills. The Journal of General Psychology29(2), 243-250.
  10. Twining, W. E. (1949). Mental practice and physical practice in learning a motor skill. Research Quarterly. American Association for Health, Physical Education and Recreation20(4), 432-435.
  11. Rakestraw, P. G., Irby, D. M., & Vontver, L. A. (1983). The use of mental practice in pelvic examination instruction. Journal of Medical Education58(4), 335.
  12. Sanders, C. W., Sadoski, M., Bramson, R., Wiprud, R., & Van Walsum, K. (2004). Comparing the effects of physical practice and mental imagery rehearsal on learning basic surgical skills by medical students. American journal of obstetrics and gynecology191(5), 1811-1814.
  13. Sanders, C. W., Sadoski, M., Wasserman, R. M., Wiprud, R., English, M., & Bramson, R. (2007). Comparing the effects of physical practice and mental imagery rehearsal on learning basic venipuncture by medical students. Imagination, Cognition and Personality27(2), 117-127.
  14. Bathalon, S., Martin, M., & Dorion, D. (2004). Cognitive task analysis, kinesiology and mental imagery: Challenging surgical attrition. Journal of the American College of Surgeons199(3), 73.
  15. Bramson, R., Sanders, C. W., Sadoski, M., West, C., Wiprud, R., English, M., … & Xenakis, A. (2011). Comparing the effects of mental imagery rehearsal and physical practice on learning lumbar puncture by medical students. Annals of Behavioral Science and Medical Education17(2), 3-6.
  16. Sanders, C. W., Sadoski, M., van Walsum, K., Bramson, R., Wiprud, R., & Fossum, T. W. (2008). Learning basic surgical skills with mental imagery: using the simulation centre in the mind. Medical Education42(6), 607-612.
Cite this article as: Elif Dilek Cakal, Turkey, "Mental Practice: A tool for skill training during COVID pandemic," in International Emergency Medicine Education Project, June 8, 2020, https://iem-student.org/2020/06/08/mental-practice-a-tool-for-skill-training-during-covid-pandemic/, date accessed: December 11, 2023

RUSH Course for Medical Students

Dear students,

We are pleased to open our third course for you; Rapid Ultrasound in Shock and Hypotension (RUSH).

As a part of our social responsibility initiative, iem-course.org will continue to provide free open online courses related to emergency medicine. We hope our courses help you to continue your education during these difficult times.

Please send us your feedback or requests about courses.

We are here to help you.

Best regards.

Arif Alper Cevik, MD, FEMAT, FIFEM

Arif Alper Cevik, MD, FEMAT, FIFEM

iEM Course is a social responsibility initiative of iEM Education Project

Hypotension is a high-risk sign which is associated with increased morbidity and mortality rate. The differential diagnosis for hypotension is broad and the treatment depends on the underlying etiology. In most cases of hypotension, patients present with limited history and physical examination may be inaccurate making the management of the condition a great challenge for emergency physicians.

The use of POCUS in undifferentiated hypotension has been shown to help correctly and rapidly identify the etiology and therefore initiate the appropriate management. Since 2001, there are many protocols published describing a systematic approach to the use of POCUS in undifferentiated hypotension. 

In this course, we will focus on the Rapid Ultrasound in Shock and Hypotension (RUSH) protocol.

This course aims to provide the necessary information on ultrasonography, its use in a hypotensive patient, and to prepare you for a RUSH practice session.

The course content is prepared and curated from iEM Education chapters, iEM image and video archives, and various FOAMed resources.

At the end of this course, you will be able to;

  • Describe the basics of ultrasound (terminology, knobology, image acquisition, artifacts, etc.)
  • Describe indications of RUSH protocol
  • Describe patient and machine preparations
  • Describe ultrasound examination views
  • Recognize normal anatomical structures
  • Recognize abnormal findings
  • Feel confident to take a practical session for RUSH protocol

Who can get benefit from this course?

  • Junior and senior medical students (course specifically designed for these groups)
  • Interns/Junior emergency medicine residents/registrars

Other Free Online Courses

Cite this article as: Arif Alper Cevik, "RUSH Course for Medical Students," in International Emergency Medicine Education Project, May 27, 2020, https://iem-student.org/2020/05/27/rush-course-for-medical-students/, date accessed: December 11, 2023

COVID-19 Pandemic: Rural Preparations

Hoping for the best while preparing for the worst has been the theme of all medical institutes around the world, especially in counties that are yet to be hit by the dreaded tsunami of overwhelming COVID-19 cases. We have 191 positive cases 153 of which are in the hospital being treated and 33 have recovered. Fortunately, there have been no mortalities till date. [1] The current statistic may not look dreadful given the large numbers that we are exposed to daily these days. Before the cases reached 100, most Nepalese wondered, sometimes boastfully, why the cases are not spreading like wildfire. People went on record, crediting our culture of greeting with Namaste instead of a handshake, eating with hand instead of a spoon – which necessitates handwashing at least 4 times a day, the hygiene hypothesis, the fact that our country has only one international airport, and the universal coverage of BCG vaccination in Nepal. There are too many biases and heuristics at play here, but somewhere inside, I want to believe that at least some of them are true.

The Sukraraj Infectious and Tropical Disease Hospital (STIDH) in Teku, Kathmandu has been designated by the Government of Nepal (GoN) as the primary hospital along with Patan Hospital and the Armed Police Forces Hospital in the Kathmandu Valley. The Ministry of Health and Population (MoHP) has requested the 25 hubs and satellite hospital networks across the country – designated for managing mass casualty events – to be ready with infection prevention and control measures, and critical care beds where available. The Government is allocating spaces for quarantine purposes throughout the country and some sites have already been populated by migrants who recently returned from India. [2]

We have seen healthcare systems that are multi-fold advanced than that of our crumble when faced head-on with this illness. After working in the healthcare system of my country for 2 years, I am convinced that it will take a miracle for us to deal with this pandemic.

I have seen what preparations we are striving towards and what portion of it has been achieved. We are struggling to reach our preparation goals. That is not nearly as frustrating as the fact that many countries whose baseline was our goal have failed terribly. Today keeping the theme of workarounds rather than complaints about things outside of our circle of influence, I am presenting to you some preparatory works being done at Beltar PHC, a peripheral center located in one of the most affected districts, Udayapur, of Nepal. [1]

Credit, where credit is due: We have done 17878 RT-PCR, and 58546 RDT to find 191 positive cases till May 12, 2020. [1] We came up with a protocol and are also gradually updating it to meet the contemporary need. Funny word that contemporary is, especially now that no information gets to age before a new one replaces it. Speaking of temporary, a very recurring theme these days, there are temporary shelters made at every ward level in Beltar. People returning from abroad are kept in isolation for 14 days there. We run a temporary fever clinic at the PHC and refer suspected cases to higher centers for the COVID-19 test. We don’t have rapid diagnostic kits at the PHC yet. Our PHC with 26 staff has received 13 disposable PPEs that we have had the privilege of reusing. There is an Interim reporting form for suspected cases of COVID-19 (based on WHO Minimum Data Set Report Form) which can be downloaded and filled from the MOHP website. [3]

Available PPE at PHC level. Photo credit: Mr. Govinda Khadka
Fever clinic at Beltar PHC. Photo credit: Mr. Govinda Khadka
Quarantine setup at a ward in Chaudandigadi Municipality. Photo credit: Mr. Govinda Khadka

Lockdown was announced in Nepal on March 24, 2020. Excerpt from WHO Director-General’s opening remarks at the media briefing [4] on COVID-19, 25 March 2020 says this: “Asking people to stay at home and shutting down population movement is buying time and reducing the pressure on health systems. But on their own, these measures will not extinguish epidemics. The point of these actions is to enable the more precise and targeted measures that are needed to stop transmission and save lives. We call on all countries who have introduced so-called “lockdown” measures to use this time to attack the virus. You have created a second window of opportunity. The question is, how will you use it? There are six key actions that we recommend:

  1. Expand, train and deploy your health care and public health workforce;
  2. Implement a system to find every suspected case at the community level;
  3. Ramp up the production, capacity, and availability of testing;
  4. Identify, adapt and equip facilities you will use to treat and isolate patients;
  5. Develop a clear plan and process to quarantine contacts;
  6. Refocus the whole of government on suppressing and controlling COVID-19.”

In Nepal, there has been documentation of protocol for various aspects of the pandemic; PPE for each level of care has been decided, need to scale up the testing recognized, and even the support for Solidarity trials discussed. The protocol designed to tackle COVID-19 recognizes that different strategies for the rural and urban areas are necessary. The response to outbreaks in remote and rural areas where containment may be easier though assistance more difficult vs. outbreak in urban locations where containment is likely more difficult, but treatment and assistance likely to be easier.

The mist of immediate threat followed by the rubble of destruction it causes keeps us blind to the problems lurking in the background. As big and dangerous, if not bigger. Especially when you know nothing even vaguely similar to CARES-Act is being prepared for dampening the direct and indirect economic impact of the epidemic. Add to the fact that the American government’s CARES-Act already faces various criticism—that gives birth to anxiety for even the most seasoned economists. That is looking at just one domain of the post epidemic future. Healthcare might be crippled, social structure tossed over, politics somersaulted and people stripped off their faith. That may give rise to a jigsaw too complicated to attempt. It is high time we start thinking about solving some of those puzzles now.


1. Corona Info. Ministry of Health and Population. Accessed May 12, 2020. https://covid19.mohp.gov.np/#/
2. COVID-19 Nepal preparedness and response plan (NPRP) draft. April 9. Accessed May 10, 2020. https://www.who.int/docs/default-source/nepal-documents/novel-coronavirus/covid-19-nepal-preparedness-and-response-plan-(nprp)-draft-april-9.pdf?sfvrsn=808a970a_2
3. Reporting form for COVID. Accessed May 12, 2020. http://edcd.gov.np/resources/download/reporting-form-for-covid
4. Situation reports on COVID-19 outbreak, 25 March 2020. WHO | Regional Office for Africa. Accessed May 12, 2020. https://www.afro.who.int/publications/situation-reports-covid-19-outbreak-25-march-2020

Cite this article as: Carmina Shrestha, Nepal, "COVID-19 Pandemic: Rural Preparations," in International Emergency Medicine Education Project, May 25, 2020, https://iem-student.org/2020/05/25/covid-19-pandemic-rural-preparations/, date accessed: December 11, 2023

eFAST Course for Medical Students

Dear students,

We are pleased to open our second course for you; Extended Focused Assessment with Sonography for Trauma (eFAST).

As a part of our social responsibility initiative, iem-course.org will continue to provide free open online courses related to emergency medicine. We hope our courses help you to continue your education during these difficult times.

Please send us your feedback or requests about courses.

We are here to help you.

Best regards.

Arif Alper Cevik, MD, FEMAT, FIFEM

Arif Alper Cevik, MD, FEMAT, FIFEM

iEM Course is a social responsibility initiative of iEM Education Project

Extended Focused Assessment With Sonography In Trauma (eFAST) is one of the most commonly used emergency ultrasound or Point-Of-Care Ultrasound protocols. It is a protocol that we use in trauma patients. However, the eFAST examination can also be a part of another protocol, such as RUSH protocol.

The early diagnosis of a bleeding trauma patient is essential for better patient care. Unfortunately, it is proven that our physical exam findings are not perfect in every case. Therefore, using a bedside tool in addition to the physical examination can improve patient management.

As a 21st-century medical student/young physician, you must learn how to use this tool to provide more comprehensive and accurate care to your patients.

This course aims to provide the necessary information on ultrasonography, its use in a multiply injured trauma patient, and to prepare you for an eFAST practice session.

Cite this article as: Arif Alper Cevik, "eFAST Course for Medical Students," in International Emergency Medicine Education Project, May 18, 2020, https://iem-student.org/2020/05/18/efast-course-for-medical-students/, date accessed: December 11, 2023

Free Open Online Emergency Medicine Course for Medical Students

Dear colleagues,

I hope this message finds you well in the busy and risky days of COVID-19. 

As known by most of you, the International Emergency Medicine Education Project has been providing free emergency medicine educational resources for medical students since June 2018. Currently, content produced by 175 contributors from 27 countries reached thousands of students from 197 countries around the globe. 

COVID-19 pandemic made many differences in our lives. Education is no exception to this. Because of the pandemic precautions, medical students miss their normal course of education. This may be a bigger issue in countries lacking e-learning options. Therefore, we have been thinking of ways to help students and educators who might be needing such a resource. 

As some of you might know, we were already planning to start a MOOC for medical students in upcoming years. However, COVID-19 forced us to fasten our plans. We have been working for a solution to help students and educators, who lack the means to continue their education activities. Finally, we managed to create a platform: iem-course.org. This platform is designed to provide free online emergency medicine courses for medical students. 

In this platform, we activated the first course, “Emergency Medicine Core Content Course.” It is a 4-week course, covering 11 core topics of emergency medicine. The course includes video and reading assignments, multiple formative quizzes. In addition, if students prefer to receive a course completion certificate, they can take the summative assessment at the end. The reading assignments are curated from freely available online resources (e.g., iEM Education Project 2018 eBook and Society for Academic Emergency Medicine’s CDEM Curriculum chapters). Videos are provided by Lecturio, and all emergency medicine videos (200 items) are freely available for students who join the “iEM/Lecturio Emergency Medicine Core Content Course.” All students around the world are free to register and use the resources provided in this course. 

We hope that this course may help students and educators to overcome educational challenges related to pandemic. We consider this initiative as our responsibility to our international community in these difficult days. We thank all emergency medicine societies, organizations and institutions that endorsed and supported us since the beginning. We are grateful to our contributors, who made creating a project like this possible by writing chapters, providing images and videos. If you are interested in contributing, please let us know by e-mail

iEM Course is a social responsibility initiative of iEM Education Project

Also, we would like to remind you of other iEM project resources below: 

iem-student.org is the main hub of the iEM Education project. Students can reach 2018 eBook chapters, blog posts, video, image, audio archives through this website. 

Flickr image archive is where we share images and short videos provided by our contributors. All photos and short videos are free to download. You can use these items in your presentations and exams. 

Youtube video archive is where we share clinical videos and interviews with world-renowned experts. 

SoundCloud audio archive is where we share iEM 2018 ebook chapters recorded in audio so students can download and listen anytime and anywhere.

All iEM resources are cost- and copyright-free for all medical students and educators. Please share these resources with your students and colleagues in need. If you are interested in sharing your available resources through our platforms, please contact us. We are stronger together.

Best regards.

Arif Alper Cevik, MD, FEMAT, FIFEM

On behalf of iEM Education Project Team

For more information, please visit iem-course.org

Cite this article as: Arif Alper Cevik, "Free Open Online Emergency Medicine Course for Medical Students," in International Emergency Medicine Education Project, May 1, 2020, https://iem-student.org/2020/05/01/free-open-online-emergency-medicine-course-for-medical-students/, date accessed: December 11, 2023