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COVID-19: Information for students and learners

Below you can find information related to COVID-19 for students and learners at Sunnybrook. For all general information about COVID-19 from Sunnybrook, please visit sunnybrook.ca/COVID19

General questions

I am a student with a placement at Sunnybrook. What do I do?

The health and safety of our staff, our learners and our patients continue to be our top priority. With cautious optimism, Sunnybrook is gradually returning to on-site education activities beginning with up to 280 advanced learners in nursing, medical and health professions in July to complete their training. For students with confirmed placements, please continue to check your e-mail for updates. ​If you have any questions about Sunnybrook’s plan to reintegrate learners, please contact us at education@sunnybrook.ca.

I am a resident physician or clinical fellow. Do I still come to work?

You are expected to come to work if you are symptom free.

If you have travelled within 14 days, you may continue to work if you do not have symptoms (however mild they may be). Medical residents who are asymptomatic must:

  • Self-monitor for any new respiratory symptoms (however mild) or fever
  • Take their own temperature twice a day
  • If they develop any symptoms or have a fever (38.0 or greater), they must exclude themselves immediately and report to Occupational Health and Safety (ext. 4175)

Please check your e-mail and visit sunnynet.ca/coronavirus for updates specific to health-care workers at Sunnybrook.

I don’t feel well. What should I do?

We require all health-care workers with symptoms to be tested. If you have symptoms of COVID-19, please book an appointment to visit Occupational Health & Safety at our Bayview Campus. If you do not have Sunnynet access, call 416-480-4175. As a second option, you can visit the COVID-19 Assessment Centre in U-Wing. Please bring your ID badge.

I am concerned about my mental health

Sunnybrook is here for you. A confidential hotline is offered to learners in distress by Sunnybrook's Department of Psychiatry at 416-480-4561. You can also check out our Student Assistance resources for support services that are available to you.

Pre-screening/hospital entrance procedures

Am I required to self-isolate prior to starting my placement?

The Canadian government is advising against all non-essential travel outside of Canada until further notice.

If you return from an essential trip outside of Canada within 14 days of starting your placement, or during your placement, you must complete a 14 day quarantine (self-isolation) period before attending placement as per the Emergency Order under the Quarantine Act put in place by the Government of Canada.

There are currently no requirements to quarantine after returning to Ontario from another Canadian province except in Veterans Centre which is only accepting local (no out of province) students and where students should not have traveled outside Ontario in the last 14 days.

Am I required to complete any pre-screening prior to beginning my placement?

Students must complete an initial self-screening and attestation as part of Sunnybrook’s online registration process. Self-monitoring for symptoms is required on an ongoing basis once the placement begins.

Will I be screened when entering the hospital? (Hospital entrance procedures)

Bayview Campus: When students/trainees arrive on their first day (before they receive a Sunnybrook ID badge) they are asked to please enter the Sunnybrook Bayview campus using the doors at D-wing ground floor (South entrance) or H-wing ground floor. They will need to pass by the screeners at the door. Let the screeners know you are a new student/trainee starting at Sunnybrook. They will let you pass.
Veterans Centre: Please use the L-wing entrance.
St. John’s Rehab: Students/trainees must enter through the main entrance. Holland Centre: Students/trainees must enter through the main entrance.
Holland Centre: Students/trainees must enter through the main entrance. 
Reactivation Care Centre: Students/trainees must enter through the main entrance.

Getting to and from placement

Please note that students who choose to use the Sunnybrook shuttle must wear a mask when riding the shuttlebus. Masks are not provided for this purpose and students should bring their own.
Bike cages are available at Sunnybrook if students choose to cycle. Please contact the appropriate member of the education team for more information.

Placement procedures

Will students be required to provide care to COVID-19 positive patients?

Students and trainees will not be assigned to provide care to confirmed COVID-19 positive patients.

  • Students may care for patients on droplet and contact precautions who are under investigation for COVID-19 (except in Veterans Centre). These patients are commonly referred to as PUIs (patients under investigation). (Select exceptions may apply. These must be approved by the Vice President of Education and the Academic Institution).

Will students be required to participate in aerosol-generating medical procedures (AGMP)?

Aerosol-generating medical procedures (AGMP) are procedures carried out on a patient that can induce the production of aerosols of various sizes in high concentrations. These procedures present a risk for opportunistic airborne transmission of pathogens not otherwise spread by the airborne route (e.g., COVID-19). Examples of AGMPs for all patients include: Code Blue, intubation, and the use of noninvasive ventilation (e.g., CPAP, BiPAP, etc.). Examples of AGMPs for patients with confirmed COVID-19 or PUIs include: open suctioning, tracheostomy change and the use of cool humidity.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Sunnybrook has implemented detailed protocols that must be followed when these AGMPs are required. Students and trainees will therefore not participate in AGMPs for safety reasons. 
  • There may be some exceptions to this for students in professions where developing competency in these procedures is mandatory in order to complete their placement objectives. This will be done under the direct observation of a preceptor or supervisor.

How can I keep myself and patients safe while providing care?

As always, it is important to follow the policies and procedures that Sunnybrook has established and that you have learned in school to prevent the spread of infection:

  • Follow routine practices
    • Perform hand hygiene as per the 4 moments of hand hygiene and as required as a component of personal care (e.g., after going to the washroom, before eating, etc.)
    • Perform a risk assessment before any patient interaction to determine what, if any risk exists, for exposure to blood or body fluids. Select and don/doff personal protective equipment (PPE) as appropriate (e.g., gloves, gown, etc.)

  • Use additional precautions when a communicable disease and/or organism of epidemiological significance is identified or suspected (e.g., contact, droplet & contact or airborne precautions). Any member of the health-care team (including students) should place a patient on additional precautions when there are concerns about transmission of infection, however additional precautions may only be discontinued after consultation with Infection Prevention and Control (IP&C).

During the COVID-19 pandemic, a mask and eye protection is required whenever you are within 2 metres (6 feet) of any patient, even if not on precautions. Keep your hands away from your face and perform hand hygiene before and after touching your mask when donning and doffing.

How can I keep myself and my colleagues safe while in the hospital?

Just as you do in the community, please be sure to maintain physical distancing while at Sunnybrook. Masks are mandatory in all clinical and common areas. In locations where safe distancing (2 metres) can be assured, you are permitted to remove your mask.

As always, do not attend placement if you have any infectious symptoms – no matter how mild – in order to prevent transmission to your patients and colleagues.

What procedures are in place to ensure the safety of learners during classroom-based activities during placement?

While virtual platforms are encouraged, in-person classroom learning is sometimes required. In these cases you will be given additional information about infection prevention and control guidelines specific to the session. Sunnybrook room capacities have been adjusted to support physical distancing and many have designated seats indicated.

What if I feel unsafe during an activity while on placement?

We are committed to providing students with a safe, healthy, secure and respectful environment while at Sunnybrook. If students have a concern during placement, the steps below are in place so we can act as effectively as possible. If you are uncomfortable speaking to the individuals suggested at any point during the escalation process, please feel free to contact Dr. Ari ZaretskyElizabeth McLaney, Maria Parzanese, Dr. Eugenia Piliotis or Sinthujah Santhirasiri. 

Step 1

Speak with your preceptor or supervisor If you are comfortable, we encourage you to address the concern with the person you are working with on a daily basis.

Step 2

Speak with your area leadership or professional lead If the concern is not addressed at Step 1, please feel free to speak with your area or professional lead. This may include your site director, patient care manager, professional and education leader, advanced practice nurse or clinical coordinator.

Step 3

Speak with a member of the Student Centre leadership team If your concern has not been addressed to your satisfaction in Step 1 and/or Step 2, speak with a member of our Student Centre leadership team, such as the director of Interprofessional & Academic Education, director of the Peters-Boyd Academy, manager of Post-Graduate Medical Education and Education Observers, or the education lead for nursing.

Step 4

Speak with the vice-president of education If you feel the need to address your concern at the senior-leadership level, please feel free to connect with the Vice-President of Education, Dr. Ari Zaretsky.

Please note: Depending on the nature of your concern, your academic institution or other hospital-based leaders may become involved in your case.

What spaces are available for breaks?

Physical distancing remains one of the most important ways to prevent the transmission of COVID-19 between those who work at Sunnybrook. It is important to maintain a 2-metre distance as much as possible, especially in situations where you may not be wearing a mask, such as during breaks when you are eating or drinking.

Please do not use the staff lounge on your unit for breaks if the maximum number of people allowed in the room are already present. You may take your breaks off the unit in each campus’ cafeterias or outside at a picnic table. Make sure you speak with your preceptor/supervisor or professional leader/clinical coordinator as some professions have additional spaces allocated away from clinical areas which may be used for breaks or documentation. Please ensure you observe proper physical distancing and mask wearing in all of these locations. There should be no food or drink shared amongst persons.

How many people can be at a patient’s bedside at a time for teaching purposes?

A maximum of two people (i.e., one learner and one preceptor/supervisor) can be at a patient’s bedside at a time for teaching purposes in order to minimize crowding in the room.

Can I work across multiple hospital units/areas as part of my placement?

Students may work across multiple hospital units/areas as part of their placements with the exception of students placed in the Veterans Centre and units on outbreak.

What happens if the unit I am assigned to goes into outbreak?

In most situations, you may continue to attend placement in the event a COVID-19 outbreak is declared on your unit as long as you have no symptoms of COVID-19 and your school approves. If an outbreak is declared on your unit of placement:

  • You will not be assigned to confirmed COVID-19 positive patients.
  • You may be asked to be tested for the virus along with all other staff on the unit. The purpose of this is to help identify the source of the case due to pre-symptomatic/asymptomatic transmission from health-care worker to patient.
  • You may not attend placement on another unit unless your placement requires you to regularly rotate across many units. In this case, you should see patients on the outbreak unit at the end of your shift, where possible.
  • If your placement on the unit is ending and you are moving to a different unit or hospital, consult Occupational Health & Safety and Infection, Prevention & Control on testing and returing to work.
  • If you are deemed by OHS to have had a significant exposure to COVID-19, you may be required to self-isolate for 14 days. Please remember to wear a mask and eye protection for every patient encounter to minimize your risk of exposure. If you ever have any concerns about a breach in PPE, contact OHS at ext. 4175 as soon as possible.

Student placements on outbreak units may be reassessed by the education department, IP&C, Occupational Health & Safety (OHS) or your school depending on the circumstances.

Occupational Health and Safety

What are the symptoms of COVID-19?

Symptoms of COVID-19 include:

  • Fever (temperature of 37.8C or greater)
  • New or worsening cough
  • Shortness of breath/hypoxia
  • Sore throat
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Decrease or loss of sense of taste or smell
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Runny nose or nasal congestion
  • Unexplained malaise, muscle aches or lethargy
  • Conjunctivitis

What should I do if I develop one of the above symptoms?

As always, students, trainees, clinical instructors and faculty must follow the Healthy Workplace Policy (full policy is available on Sunnynet or through your preceptor/supervisor) and not attend placement if they have any infectious symptoms.

  • Notify your preceptor/supervisor, your school and OHS that you are sick.
  • If you develop any symptoms while on site at Sunnybrook, notify your preceptor/supervisor and leave the clinical area as soon as it is safe to do so.

If you have any one of the above symptoms (even if mild) you should also be tested for COVID-19.

When should I get tested for COVID-19?

You should get tested for COVID-19 whenever you develop any of the symptoms listed above (even if mild). Remember that a negative result only represents a moment in time. If you develop new symptoms at a later time after testing negative, you should get tested again.

Please email OHS at ohssurveillance@sunnybrook.ca to let them know you are being tested. Please call OHS at 416-480-6100 ext. 4175 only if you have no e-mail access. If you are symptomatic, you may not return to placement until cleared by OHS.

Where can I get tested for COVID-19?

The OHS clinic (room HG46 at Bayview campus) is the preferred location for testing during OHS business hours, Monday to Friday, 7 a.m. – 5 p.m.

Testing for COVID-19 in the OHS clinic can be booked online for those who have access to Sunnynet or have a Sunnybrook email address (preceptors may assist), or by calling Occupational Health and Safety at 416-480-6100 ext. 4175.

You can also be tested at the COVID-19 Assessment Centre at Sunnybrook outside of OHS business hours. The Assessment Centre is open 12 p.m. – 7:30 p.m. on weekdays and 12 p.m. – 5 p.m. on weekends. When being tested at the Assessment Centre, please let them know that you are a student or trainee at Sunnybrook, and bring your ID badge, health card and cell phone to keep the registration process moving quickly. Please email OHS at ohssurveillance@sunnybrook.ca to let them know you are being tested. Please call OHS only if you have no e-mail access at 416-480-6100 ext. 4175. If you are symptomatic, you may not return to placement until cleared by OHS.

* We encourage you to get tested for COVID-19 at Sunnybrook. If you are getting tested elsewhere, it may result in a longer time before returning to placement.

What should I do if I am diagnosed with COVID-19?

If you test positive for COVID-19 and your testing was done at Sunnybrook, a member of the OHS team will contact you to follow-up. They will provide guidance on self-isolation. You will also be contacted by your local public health unit. If your symptoms feel worse than a standard cold, call your health-care practitioner. You will be required to self-isolate for a minimum of 14 days from your symptom onset date or date of positive test (if asymptomatic).

What should I do if I think that I have been exposed to COVID-19 during my placement?

If you think you have had an unprotected exposure (i.e., without appropriate PPE) to a patient/staff member/learner with COVID-19, please contact OHS to assess your risk. You will be provided with guidance on next steps to take and whether self-isolation is necessary.

Getting tested is strongly encouraged if you are concerned about any exposure to an individual with COVID-19. If this has occurred, the best time to be tested would be: 1) between day 4 and 8 following the presumed exposure if you are still asymptomatic, or 2) at the onset of symptoms where yield of testing is the highest.

What if someone I live with has symptoms of COVID-19?

  • If you have a household member that is sick undiagnosed – you may attend placement and self monitor for symptoms.
  • If you have a household member that is sick awaiting COVID-19 test – do not attend placement pending their test results.
  • If you have a household member who is COVID-19 positive – do not attend placement and notify OHS. (Those who have previously tested positive for COVID-19 and have recovered and been cleared by OHS to return to work are exempt from this.)

How do I self-monitor or self-isolate if I am told that I must do one of both of these?

Extensions for lapsed Occupational Health & Safety or other placement requirements

During the last few months some of your Occupational Health & Safety or other placement requirements may have lapsed, or you may not have been able to acquire the appropriate documentation.

TB testing

A grace period of 3 months is being granted with respect to TB tests, however you are welcome to contact Occupational Health & Safety for support with getting testing done.

Fit testing for N95 respirators

Current fit testing (or re-testing if you have been tested on a respirator that is not currently in stock at Sunnybrook) is only required for the small number of students/trainees who will be involved in AGMPs (see above) as part of their placements. For those meeting the requirement you may contact Occupational Health & Safety to book an appointment. If your mask fit testing certificate is expired (or Sunnybrook does not have model of mask you were tested on), you may not provide care to patients on Airborne precautions.

CPR (re)certification

For students/trainees who require CPR (re)certification you may complete the online module available through Heart and Stroke. In person training can be done at a later date when classes resume.

Criminal record checks

A grace period of 3 months is being granted with respect to criminal record checks.

Other placement requirements

Please get in touch with the appropriate member of the education team to clarify if you have other placement requirements which have lapsed or which you have not been able to complete due to COVID-19.

COVID-19 wellness resources (Be Well)

Sunnybrook’s COVID-19 wellness resources are available to students and trainees. A student assistance page has also been created specifically for students/trainees.

Life outside of placement

Can I work at another job while attending placement?

There are no restrictions on working in non-health-care related jobs while attending placement unless the placement is with the Veterans Centre, where students may not work elsewhere that is higher risk or considered essential work. If you are employed elsewhere and are a scheduled for a placement at the Veterans Centre, please speak to the appropriate member of the education team.

If you work in a long-term care (LTC) home or retirement home (RH), you may not be able to continue working in those settings while attending placement in order to comply with Ontario Regulations 146/20 (LTC) and 158/20 (RH), which limit employees/students/trainees of these settings from working with other health service providers. Please contact the appropriate member of the education team if this applies to you.

If you are working for another health service provider when an outbreak is declared on either the unit at Sunnybrook or other health service provider, you may not attend placement at either location for a designated time period, depending on the type of outbreak, or until the outbreak is declared over, whichever is earliest. Please contact the appropriate member of the education team if this applies to you.

As always, do not go to work or attend placement if you have any infectious symptoms – no matter how mild.

Can I travel while attending placement?

The Canadian government is advising against all non-essential travel outside of Canada until further notice.

If you return from an essential trip outside of Canada within 14 days of starting your placement, or during your placement, you must complete a 14 day quarantine (self-isolation) period before attending placement as per the Emergency Order under the Quarantine Act put in place by the Government of Canada.

There are currently no requirements to quarantine after returning to Ontario from another Canadian province except in Veterans Centre which is only accepting local (no out of province) students and where students should not have traveled outside Ontario in the last 14 days.

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

What PPE will I be provided with?

Students are provided with the same access to PPE as preceptors/supervisors including masks, face shields, gowns and gloves. Details regarding required items as appropriate to the profession will be reviewed with students by the lead for each profession (or preceptor where applicable).

Masks are mandatory in all clinical and common areas. In locations where safe distancing (2 metres) can be assured, you are permitted to remove your mask. Eye protection must be worn when within 2 metres (6 feet) of patients when no plexiglass barrier is in place. Students should reuse their masks where appropriate, discarding only if it becomes soiled, damaged or hard to breathe through.

Students in areas with regular patient or patient environment contact or who process patient supplies/waste:
These students will be provided with an allocation of 2 procedure masks for each shift. Students will be provided with a sticker for their badge* indicating that they are eligible (provided through the student lead for each profession) and can show their badge at a pickup location to receive. If at any time the mask becomes soiled, damaged or hard to breathe through students may speak with the manager/team leader for the area to access another mask.

Students who have occasional access to clinical areas during their placement:
Students can show their ID badge and request 1 procedure mask at a mask pickup location. To limit the number of masks used and minimize the risk of transmission, students from non-clinical areas should restrict their visits to clinical areas to only necessary visits and should make every effort to meet with other staff virtually or in non-clinical areas.

Students who do not access clinical areas or come in contact with patients:
These students can show their ID badge and request 1 procedure mask from a mask pickup location.

*MDs do not require a sticker – they will be provided with 2 masks upon showing their ID badge

What is the process to pick up masks each day?

Staff must pick up their masks in the following locations:
M-ground– 24 hrs per day
E-ground (outside of McLaughlin Auditorium) – 0630–1930
T-wing north entrance – 0630–1600
L-wing Veterans – 0630–1700
*Night nurses in Veterans Centre and Palliative Care will pick up their masks on their units.

Weekend and holidays:
M-ground– 24 hrs per day
L-wing Veterans – 0630–1700
*Night nurses in Veterans Centre and Palliative Care will pick up their masks on their units.

Pick up locations at St. Johns Rehab, Holland Centre and the RCC will be near the main entrances.

Students MUST show their ID badge and clean their hands in order to receive mask(s). They are asked to follow instructions for donning, doffing and storing their masks during meal times and other times.

What PPE training and education will I be provided with?

Before beginning placements/rotations at Sunnybrook students are required to complete a number of online training requirements/eLearning modules. These include: hand hygiene, routine practices and additional precautions, donning & doffing personal protective equipment (PPE) and PPE conservation.

Details regarding required items as appropriate to the profession will be reviewed with students by the lead for each profession (or preceptor where applicable). At the start of placement (and before providing care to patients) students must complete a return demonstration of PPE technique. Depending upon the profession of the student this may include: a simulation session, a small group training session, or an individual training session/ completion of our Return Demonstration Checklist.

Due to the global PPE shortage, what polices are in place at Sunnybrook to conserve PPE?

In order to conserve PPE due to the global PPE shortage, Sunnybrook has implemented mask conservation strategies which will involve wearing masks/eye protection between patients and for more prolonged periods of time. View the videos assigned to you via our student registration system.

As always, gowns and gloves must be changed between each patient and hand hygiene must be performed according to the 4 moments of hand hygiene, as well as before donning and after doffing gloves.

How do I safely reuse a mask?

Please review the following Mask Use Q&A:

Mask use Q&A
This guidance is for use of masks and eye protection by a single person. Please note, these items must never be shared!

What are basic tips in caring for my mask?

  • While wearing the mask, refrain from touching it with your hands and ensure that both nose and mouth are completely covered at all times
  • The mask can be worn for several hours until soiled, damaged, or hard to breathe through
  • Do not hang the mask around your neck or from your ear, or rest it on your head
  • Perform hand hygiene before and after donning and doffing the mask
How long can I wear the mask allocated to me by the hospital, and when should it be changed?
  • The mask should be worn continuously until it is soiled, damaged, or hard to breathe through. The same mask can be kept on while providing clinical care to multiple patients and when working in common areas
  • Wear the mask in the correct position: wire on bridge of nose, and white side towards face. It may only be removed outside of a patient care area, when physical distancing from others can be maintained, and only after performing hand hygiene
How do I safely doff the mask, and where should it be kept when I am not wearing it?
  • Perform hand hygiene
  • Clean the surface where you plan to place the mask
  • Remove the mask using the ear loops (the front of the mask may be contaminated, so do not touch it); remove mask slowly and carefully
  • After removing mask, visually inspect for contamination or damage; if contaminated or damaged, the mask should be discarded
  • Store mask with inside facing upward on clean surface
  • The mask may be put back on again after hands have been cleaned

When do I need to wear a mask when in the hospital?

Masks are mandatory in all clinical and common areas. In locations where safe distancing (2 metres) can be assured, you are permitted to remove your mask.

When do I need to wear eye protection in the hospital?

Eye protection is mandatory for every patient encounter, regardless of if the patient requires additional precautions or not.

My N95 mask fit testing certificate has expired, what should I do?

We have also implemented conservation strategies for N95 masks. Part of these conservation strategies involve only fit-testing individuals who are required to interact with patients under airborne precautions or participate in AGMPs.

Current fit testing (or re-testing if you have been tested on a respirator that is not currently in stock at Sunnybrook) is only required for the small number of students/trainees who will be involved in AGMPs (see above) as part of their placements. For those meeting the requirement you may contact Occupational Health & Safety to book an appointment. If your mask fit testing certificate is expired, (or Sunnybrook does not have the model of mask you were tested on), you may not provide care to patients on Airborne precautions.

Remote access & virtual care

Can I get remote access in order to support my placement?

Students may set up a virtual desktop at no cost. Virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) enables access to a virtual computer hosted on Sunnybrook’s network. VDI is available from anywhere – onsite or offsite, wired or wireless, corporate, guest or Eduroam. The VDI desktop is installed with a set of predefined applications and no additional software can be installed. You can access your Sunnybrook virtual desktop from any computer/laptop (Windows, MAC, Linux, corporately owned or personal, etc.) connected to the Internet (Sunnybrook network, home or public Wi-Fi). In addition, virtual desktops are accessible via mobile devices such as iPhones, iPads or Android devices. If you require remote access/VDI please alert the lead for students as appropriate to your profession.

Is virtual care/virtual work an option as part of student placement/rotation experiences?

Virtual care for patients/families may be an option to replace or minimize on site or face-to-face placement time. Virtual involvement in project work or other non-direct care activities may also help to support students in meeting learning objectives. Including virtual care and learning opportunities is encouraged in order to help minimize the number of people on site at Sunnybrook at any given time, and in support of physical distancing. Please speak to the lead for students in your profession if you have questions about virtual care/work. Depending on the location of the placement/rotation and the profession a variety of options may be available. For privacy and security related reasons, only Sunnybrook approved platforms may be used. The Education Department has a select number of Zoom licenses available to support student education.

Virtual Care Resources for Teaching and Learning:

View all information about COVID-19