DEVELOPING ONLINE PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT FOR PHYSICIANS DURING A GLOBAL PANDEMIC: GROUP SALIENCE, COMMUNICATION, RELATIONSHIP BUILDING, AND STRESS REDUCTION
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Professional education for physicians remains an important research topic. However, the influence of physician identity development when creating education content is not widely researched. Indeed, varying levels of social identity among physicians influence in-group/out-group behavior with peers across an organization and impact peer-to-peer relationship building, communication, and how they perceive stress. An emergent mixed methods design was used to examine how group saliency (related to identity development) influences physician communication, relationship building, and stress. An intervention of eight online sessions attempted to intervene on physician group saliency during intergroup communications to enhance relationship building and reduce stress. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and low completion rates with the physician population, the intervention included other medical clinicians (e.g., nurses, nurse practitioners, etc.). Semi-structured interviews were added after the intervention did not collect adequate data for analysis. These interviews helped to understand clinicians’ lived experience with creating and completing online and live professional development education prior to and during a pandemic. The aim of this study was to understand more fully how clinicians use their social identity to relate to other clinicians in their environment. COVID-19 during the time of the intervention presented unique challenges and only one physician completed the entire intervention. Between 21-24 clinicians completed intervention pre-surveys and 19 interviews were conducted with non-intervention participants. Results suggest that group saliency influences relationship building, communication, and stress in a variety of ways, such as expectations to discuss a patient, how to respond to a colleague, institutional expectations on role, and institutional support with stress. Results also suggest clinicians are stressed from challenging interpersonal relationships, but many would not actively seek out content to reduce stress. While study participants did not explicitly state a relationship between social identity and coordinated care, results indicate that social identity variances across clinician roles impacts coordinated care efforts as well as relationship building and communication with other clinicians. This study supports the hypothesis that social identity variances impact coordinated care for patients and confirms how different clinicians or specialties relate to one another. While intervention results were not able to validate these findings through the pre-post-surveys, it offers a promising next step for future researchers.