Clinician Connect

Working together through COVID-19

30 Oct 2020 Reading time approximately

The ACI is leading 12 of the 30 COVID-19 clinical communities of practice (COP), drawing on the strengths of its existing clinical networks. We reveal the power of clinical collaboration and provide insight into one of the largest CoPs to support the pandemic response.


ACI-led communities of practice



clinicians and affiliates



evidence-based resources



hours of collaboration

Health systems around the world responded to the sudden and unprecedented impact of COVID-19. In March this year, NSW Health established 30 communities of practice (CoP) across key clinical specialties to collaborate and share strategies on preparedness, escalate issues and solutions, and provide expert advice on guidelines and resources on the provision of healthcare during the pandemic.

The ACI is leading 12 of these communities, which have representation from local health districts and specialty health networks. Some CoPs also have representation from the Commonwealth, primary care, private health, educational and research institutions, non-government organisations, as well as interstate and international stakeholders. Clinical leads were appointed for each CoP, who also participate in the COVID-19 Clinical Council, chaired by Dr Nigel Lyons.

The ACI-led CoPs were able to draw on the strength of ACI’s existing clinical networks, with more than 2,500 members contributing to CoP activity. Members of the ACI-led CoPs have dedicated around 300 hours to planned meetings and collaboration, as well as countless more ‘unbooked’ hours of administration, correspondence, input, review and feedback.

More than 50 evidence-based information resources have been developed by the ACI-led COVID CoPs to inform clinical care during the pandemic. This is an incredible effort, given the need to communicate and engage in a virtual environment, and often in very short timeframes. All resources are available on the COVID-19 section of the ACI website.

The ACI would like to thank all clinicians who continue to volunteer their time to contribute to these communities of practice.

Spotlight on the Respiratory COVID-19 Community of Practice

Helen Kulas, ACI Respiratory Network Manager, provides an insight on how one of the largest COVID CoPs leveraged existing ACI networks to optimise collaboration and engagement across the sector.

How was the Respiratory COVID-19 CoP formed and how did you engage members?

Professor Peter Wark, senior staff specialist in respiratory and sleep medicine at John Hunter Hospital, was appointed as the CoP’s clinical lead. The ACI was asked to support the Respiratory COVID-CoP.

The CoP was formed quickly by leveraging the existing clinical engagement that the ACI Respiratory Network has established among respiratory clinicians across NSW. This includes non-government organisations such as the Lung Foundation of Australia, Asthma Australia and Cystic Fibrosis Australia, and people living with chronic respiratory disease who contribute to our network as consumers. We also have members who are GPs or primary care practitioners with an interest in the care of people living with chronic respiratory disease.

How many members does the CoP have and what expertise do they bring?

The CoP has 517 members with representation from across all local health districts and specialty health networks, as well as private hospitals, non-government organisations, interstate colleagues and consumers. The CoP membership includes approximately 45% nurses, 15% respiratory consultants, 15% allied health, and about 5% service managers, primary care practitioners, consumers and non-government organisations respectively. This very closely mirrors the membership of the ACI Respiratory Network.

What has been the primary role of the CoP?

To contribute to the NSW Health pandemic response by developing resources and guidelines, providing an avenue for members to escalate issues and concerns and seek resolution, networking with colleagues, and accessing advice and support from expert clinicians from the Respiratory Network executive. Support has been provided in relation to the clinical care for patients with COVID-19 and the continuing care of people living with chronic respiratory illnesses during the COVID-19 pandemic.

How does the CoP work?

From 15 March 2020, the CoP met weekly throughout the height of the pandemic response. From July, we have been meeting fortnightly. We have also had the challenge of needing to communicate and engage with members in a virtual environment; however, we have done this successfully through regular email communications to CoP members, and a SharePoint site that is well used by members to access COVID-19 data and information, the latest published papers relevant to the respiratory CoP and shared files.

What resources has the CoP developed to support the health system response?

The CoP has developed seven key resources in total to support NSW clinicians during COVID-19. These include guidelines on Aerosol generating respiratory therapies; the guideline for Delivering pulmonary rehabilitation via telehealth during COVID-19; and the guideline for Rehabilitation following COVID-19 in the pulmonary rehabilitation setting. All of our resources have been used with permission at the national and international level.

In what ways has the Respiratory CoP collaborated with other COVID-19 CoPs?

We have worked collaboratively with the Virtual Care COVID-CoP on a guideline for virtual respiratory assessment, the Paediatric COVID-19 CoP on paediatric respiratory guidelines, and the Rehabilitation COVID-19 CoP on our guide for rehabilitation following COVID-19 in the pulmonary rehabilitation setting. Our members (clinicians) have provided representation on a number of working groups with other CoPs and have provided feedback on a number of guidelines for other CoPs.

What are your tips for running an effective community of practice, particularly operating in a virtual environment?
  • Having good clinical engagement with your community of practice is essential.
  • A working knowledge of the members and their strengths is essential to be able to effectively bring the right clinicians into conversations at the right time.
  • Encouraging people to use the chat functions in virtual meetings and bringing these written contributions into the conversations is a great way to keep meetings running smoothly, and allows everyone to contribute.
  • Keep topics relevant and always follow up to support the responsiveness to clinicians’ needs for a successful CoP.
  • Aim for excellence and not perfection, as there is an authenticity in being human that fosters clinical engagement.
  • Be welcoming and don’t forget to encourage members to enjoy the collaborative space – humour is a great way to relax people and bring them on the journey with you.
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