COVID-19: The Psychiatry Residency Response

Like all other health providers, Columbia Psychiatry Residency was involved in the COVID-19 response. New York was an early hot spot in the United States. In mid-March 2020, we pulled residents from many services to limit exposure and prepare for possible redeployment. Working closely with the New York Presbyterian office of Graduate Medical Education (GME), we asked our psychiatry residents to staff an expanded palliative care consult service and newly created ICU’s. Residents from every department in the hospital were pulled into the effort. Our residents worked alongside surgery, dermatology, pediatric, and neurology residents who were also supporting the health care providers in internal medicine. Psychiatry residents have not been redeployed to provide COVID care since summer 2020.  

Several of our residents wrote about their experience, both for the lay press and for professional journals:

Frontline Redeployment of Psychiatry Residents During the COVID-19 Pandemic
By Joe Villarin, Nina Gao, and Ruth McCann 
Psychiatric Services | Frontline Report 
October 6, 2020

Redeployment to COVID-19 Care Is Like Treading Water but Deeply Gratifying 
By Ruth McCann
Psychiatric News | Resident's Forum
April 28, 2020

Waiting for my daughter Blueberry in the Year Zero of Covid-19
By Christopher Magoon 
May 12, 2020 

Nobody Wants to Have End-of-Life Conversations, But ...Doing so is more important than ever in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic
By Christopher Magoon and Daniel Shalev 
Scientific American
May 29, 2020


In the words of one resident: 

Both when we were on and off service, we had weekly one-on-one conversations with Deborah and Melissa, as well as twice weekly check-ins with the chiefs and a process group for each class. During these and other conversations, we could discuss logistics, debrief about difficult encounters, share emotions, and just be together.

After two months of ICU work, all psychiatry residents are now on psychiatric services again, with a mix of both in-person and telepsychiatry clinical work. We are now hoping for the best while preparing for the worst to meet both the psychiatric and medical needs of the community. Throughout the experience, I have been impressed by the flexibility, drive, and humanism of my colleagues. In these uncertain times, it is relieving to have the full weight of Columbia psychiatry supporting us.

—Christopher Magoon, PGY2