Residents and house staff “platoons” will take on leadership roles against potential COVID-19 surge

By Josh Shepherd

Chief residents in General Surgery at the University of Kentucky are being trained to assume key leadership roles as part of an overall strategy to manage an anticipated spike in COVID-19 inpatients at UK Chandler Hospital. Dr. William B. Inabnet III, Chair of the UK Department of Surgery, described the “platoon” approach to Surgery faculty and residents during a special surgery grand rounds presentation on a Wednesday morning in April.

Dr. Inabnet served as a key member of a UK HealthCare administrative task force charged with developing a deployment strategy for patient caregivers if, or when, critical COVID-19 cases begin to rise in Kentucky. The goal is to streamline the workload and keep caregivers as rested as possible while sustaining a high level of patient care delivery, he explained.

William B. Inabnet III, MD, The Johnston-Wright Endowed Professor and Chair of Surgery

The strategy utilizes terms and approaches more associated with the military than healthcare. It calls for the formation of several “Companies,” each of which is composed of three “Platoons” of caregivers. These platoons will serve rotating day and night shifts over a six-day period, with time off after those shifts to re-charge.

While Surgery and OMHS faculty are designated as Generals and Lieutenants in each platoon, Dr. Inabnet said that the backbone of the organizational structure are Captains, comprised of general surgery senior and chief residents, as they have the essential skillset to lead others through the complexity of in-patient ICU care.Company 4, composed of Platoons 10, 11, and 12, was among the first to undergo training specific to COVID-19 patient care, Dr. Inabnet said. The three are composed of a mix of faculty members and residents from the Departments of Surgery, Anesthesia, Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery (OMHS), CRNAs, Advanced Practice Providers (APPs), and house staff.

As a Lieutenant in Company 4, Dr. Inbanet  participated in the training exercises and has been gratified to witness how the chief residents have risen to the occasion to apply the skills they have been taught during their residency by a highly dedicated surgical faculty.

“This Company of caregivers is critical to our success in the next few months and beyond,” Dr. Inabnet commented. “Our residentsplay a vital leadership role in this strategy. From their residency work, they have experience working on the floor which makes them invaluable under the current circumstances.”

“There are many aspects of the COVID-19 crisis which we cannot control,” Dr. Inabnet continued. “But I have been encouraged by the way our residents, nurses, faculty and staff have responded to these unanticipated demands as health care professionals. When this crisis is finally past us, the experience that our residents, and those across this country, will result in a generation of new leaders. Of that, I have no doubt.”