Prolonged Disruptions—Nonessential departments of medical institutions may cease to function during war or mass casualty disasters, and it may be unsafe to send dermatology residents to other institutions or clinical areas. If the threat is prolonged, programs may need to consider allowing current residents a longer duration of training despite potential overlap with incoming dermatology residents.7
Disruptions to Clinic Operations—Regarding threats of violence, dangerous exposures, or natural disasters, there should be clear guidelines on sheltering in the clinical setting or stabilizing patients during a procedure.11 Equipment used by residents such as laptops, microscopes, and treatment devices (eg, lasers) should be stored in weather-safe locations that would not be notably impacted by moisture or structural damage to the clinic building. If electricity or internet access are compromised, paper medical records should be available to residents to continue clinical operations. Electronic health records used by residents should regularly be backed up on remote servers or cloud storage to allow continued access to patient health information if on-site servers are not functional.12 If disruptions are prolonged, residency program administration should coordinate with the institution to ensure there is adequate supply and storage of medications (eg, lidocaine, botulinum toxin) as well as a continued means of delivering biologic medications to patients and an ability to obtain laboratory or dermatopathology services.
In-Person Appointments vs Telemedicine—There are benefits to both residency training and patient care when physicians are able to perform in-person examinations, biopsies, and in-office treatments.16 Programs should ensure an adequate supply of personal protective equipment to continue in-office appointments, vaccinations, and medical care if a resident or other members of the team are exposed to an infectious disease.7 If in-person appointments are limited or impossible, telemedicine capabilities may still allow residents to meet program requirements.7,10,15 However, reduced patient volume due to decreased elective visits or procedures may complicate the fulfillment of clinical requirements, which may need to be adjusted in the wake of a disaster.7
Use of Immunosuppressive Therapies—Residency programs should address the risks of prescribing immunosuppressive therapies (eg, biologics) during an infectious threat with their residents and encourage trainees to counsel patients on the importance of preventative measures to reduce risks for severe infection.17
Disasters often are unpredictable. Dermatology residency programs will not be immune to the future impacts of climate change, violent threats, or emerging pandemics. Lessons from prior natural disasters and the COVID-19 pandemic have made it clear that program directors need to be adaptable. If they plan proactively, comprehensive disaster preparedness can help to maintain high-quality training of dermatology residents in the face of extraordinary and challenging circumstances, promoting the resiliency and sustainability of graduate medical education.