It is indeed difficult to believe that almost a year to the day of writing this report, the first case of COVID-19 was identified in Ontario. While at first, not many of us saw this event as life altering, but just a few short weeks later the Province was asking us to make substantial changes in our social, personal, and professional lives in ways that we had never done before.
Initially, many members of the College were unsure of how to proceed. We had been taught to practice our profession in a face-to-face manner. Social distancing had never been an issue other than to respect professional boundaries of interaction. Now the task was to find safe and effective ways to practice using media that we were unsure would meet Provincial standards of privacy. Furthermore, given that telehealth was not a medium that was part of our professional training, for many of us, we wondered whether we would be able to offer our clients services that would be effective.
Now, a year into the pandemic, the initial concerns have lessened. Training facilities have made adaptations to ensure that interns and practicum students receive quality experiences as they approach entrance into membership in the profession. Not all these experiences are the same as they have been in the past, but we can say with confidence that new members have successfully learned to adapt to rapidly changing circumstances in creative and flexible ways. In similar fashion, more experienced members of the College have embraced technologies that bridged the physical distancing that the pandemic imposed upon them and their clients. The challenges that we have faced have provided new opportunities for growth and development. I commend the members of the College for finding the means for continuing to offer a high standard of service to the community.
“Now, a year into the pandemic, the initial concerns have lessened.”
I would also note how the College and its staff have pivoted to meet our legislative responsibilities. All committee work is conducted online. We are quickly moving toward a paperless operation. Oral exams and discipline hearings are now being conducted virtually. The Barbara Wand Seminar has been viewed online by a large proportion of the membership. Needless to say, what we are missing is the opportunity for senior staff and Council members to meet face to face with each other and members of the College. In the coming weeks, I am going to explore the possibility of holding virtual town halls across the Province to share views on our practice during the pandemic and other professional matters. I would encourage members to communicate with me and the Registrar, Dr. Rick Morris, about other ideas that could enhance the profession of Psychology in the Province.
As vaccinations become available, we see the first glimmer of hope that the pandemic will be ending. Public health projections suggest that a lower rate of infection is at least nine to twelve months away. In the interim, this is a good time to think about what we will take away from this experience. We have learned new ways of practice. Will they become the norm, or will we return to modes of service that were followed before the pandemic? Will telehealth be part of graduate training in the future? How can the College most efficaciously carry out its legislative mandate? The pandemic has placed us in a position to re-evaluate how we practice and regulate the profession. This is a unique opportunity and one that should not be missed.
May you all be well.
Michael Grand, PhD, C.Psych.