Communicating COVID-19: Preparing clinicians to tackle challenging questions

2021Communicating COVID-19: Preparing clinicians to tackle challenging questionsFree

Event Details


The Australian health sector is facing its biggest challenge since federation as the COVID-19 pandemic sweeps the globe. Clinicians are trusted members of the community. The health care workforce needs to be informed, confident and agile to rapidly respond to the changing demands of the pandemic. Clinicians may feel underprepared to explain diverse, complex questions from patients, colleagues and the general public surrounding COVID-19.

This online course aims to:

  • Provide expert-informed answers to questions Australian clinicians face surrounding COVID-19.
  • Deliver digestible, focused core knowledge on COVID-19 drawing on epidemiology, clinical science, ethics and legal expertise.


Communicating COVID-19 is designed primarily for clinicians in primary care and hospital-based settings. Secondary audiences include pharmacists, nursing and allied health staff, aged care workers, and disability care workers. Elements of this course could be adapted for primary and secondary school teachers and for the general public.


This online course is a collaboration between the Melbourne School of Population and Global Health, the Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity, the Melbourne Law School and the Mobile Learning Unit. It draws on the broad range of expertise held by The University of Melbourne academics and affiliated clinicians, ranging from epidemiology, vaccinology and infectious diseases, to law ethics and mental health.


  1. Appreciate the multifaceted nature of the COVID-19 pandemic, including, epidemiology, clinical science, ethics and society, and law.
  2. Obtain core scientific, medical, ethical and legal knowledge as relevant for healthcare professionals in the COVID-19 pandemic.
  3. Confidently address questions on COVID-19 from patients, colleagues and the general public, incorporating multidisciplinary thinking in a rapidly evolving situation.


This course consists of 8 tutorials released progressively each Wednesday over the coming weeks.

The course is organised thematically around four pillars:

1. Epidemiology

  • measures and modelling in a pandemic
  • the rationale of social distancing and ‘flattening the curve’
  • evaluating rapid clinical trials for proposed therapeutic agents

2. Clinical science

  • virology, genomics, and laboratory testing of SARS-CoV-2 virus
  • prevention of COVID-19
  • risk factors for severe disease with COVID-19
  • management and outcomes of COVID-19

3. Ethics and Society

  • Clinical ethics in a pandemic
  • Allocation of scarce resources
  • Obligations and responsibilities of healthcare professionals in a pandemic
  • Coping strategies in uncertain times

4. Law

  • Government public health interventions
  • Service disruption in a pandemic
  • Medico-legal indemnity in a pandemic

Each tutorial incoporates four key elements:

  1. Relevant, accurate, regularly refreshed core knowledge to empower clinicians for communication and decision-making.
  2. Informed phrasings with expert input to help address challenging questions from patients, colleagues and the general public.
  3. Participant engagement to discuss content and submit their own phrasings/wordings.
  4. Assessment to reinforce key background concepts, address knowledge gaps, and bolster participant confidence.

List of particular knowledge or skills obtained through course

In the week following Tutorial 4, a set of COVID-19 case studies and opportunities for review will be posted for students. Tutorial 5 will be available the week after the case-studies, with the remaining tutorials following on a weekly basis.  The evidence base around COVID-19 continues to evolve rapidly and the pause for reflection and review after tutorial four will enable us to ensure that tutorials in the second half of the course capture the latest and emerging evidence.

  • Tutorial 1 – Clinical presentation of COVID-19: “I woke up with a runny nose. Do I have the coronavirus?” (Released)
  • Tutorial 2 – Measurement and modelling in COVID-19: “What’s all this about flattening the curve?“ (Released)
  • Tutorial 3 – Prevention of COVID-19: “Should I wear a mask to go outside?” (Released)
  • Tutorial 4 – The science of COVID-19: “What’s a coronavirus, anyway?“ (Released)
  • Case Studies (Expected release May 20, 2020)
  • Tutorial 5 – Testing in COVID-19: “Someone on the train sneezed today. Can you please test me?” (Expected release June 3, 2020)
  • Tutorial 6 – Residential, occupational and social context in COVID-19: “When I can’t keep distance, how do I keep safe?” (Expected release June 10, 2020)
  • Tutorial 7 – Managing patients with COVID-19: “I’ve tested positive for the coronavirus. What now?” (Expected release June 17, 2020)
  • Tutorial 8 – Vaccinology, end-games and the future of COVID-19: “When will this all end?” (Expected release June 24, 2020)


The assessment is submission of the 8 tutorial unit self-assessments and cases studies.
A Certificate of Completion is provided upon satisfactory completion of Communicating COVID-19.


Course completion requires approximately 8-10 hours of e-learning. Given the evolving nature of the COVID-19 pandemic, tutorials will be released on a rolling basis. Content will be regularly and rigorously updated as new information and discoveries emerge.

Clinicians have the flexibility to study in their own time and location. Program materials can also be accessed using a web browser.


Year Around Event (2021)




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