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Coronavirus Response Information from the OITE

Dear NIH Trainee,

I hope you are feeling well and dealing with these uncertain times with a sense of calm focus and resilience.

The staff of the OITE may not be on campus, but we are continuing our activities on your behalf in the virtual space. This webpage is intended to provide support and keep you informed. Watch for group sessions on wellness, resilience, and mindfulness meditation plus career and professional development opportunities. Because activities are now online, trainees on any campus can participate easily.

Please contact us with ideas for webpage improvements and additions that would make your life easier … or perhaps just more fun.

I appreciate that each of you has unique situations to sort out and contend with. Please do not hesitate to email me (milgrams@nih.gov); I will do my best to address any concerns you may have.

In the meantime, be safe, wash your hands, and take care of yourselves and each other!

Sharon Milgram, PhD, Director, OITE


 Official NIH Communications

CORONAVIRUS UPDATE - Dealing with Stress, Intranet Access without VPN (Dr. Francis Collins) 4-3

CORONAVIRUS UPDATE – Maintaining an Inclusive Work Environment (Dr. Francis Collins) 4-1

New Scientific Interest Group and Intramural Sourcebook Section for COVID-19 Research (Dr. Michael Gottesman) 3-28

CORONAVIRUS UPDATE - New Video Chat, Case Numbers, Intramural Lab Transition, and How to Help (Dr. Francis Collins) 3-27

NIH Virtual Town Hall Summary (Dr. Francis Collins) 3-20

Detailed Policy on Minimal Lab Staffing (Dr. Michael Gottesman) 3-20

Reducing Physical Presence of Staff in Intramural Labs to Minimal Levels (Dr. Francis Collins) 3-20

Cancellation of 2020 Intramural Summer Progam (Dr. Michael Gottesman) 3-19

Trainee Telework (Dr. Sharon Milgram) 3-16

Message to Trainees Regarding SARS-Cov2 (Dr. Sharon Milgram) 3-13


4-3-2020 Email from Francis Collins, MD/PhD, Director, NIH: CORONAVIRUS UPDATE - Dealing with Stress, Intranet Access without VPN


Dear NIH Family:

Today, I want to elevate the conversation about coping with stress during this unprecedented time of uncertainty and change. Most of the states where NIH has operations have enacted Stay-at-Home directives. On top of fears of getting sick with COVID-19, many of us may be experiencing a sense of isolation and sadness that comes with physical distancing from our colleagues and loved ones, anxiety from the changes in our daily routines, and hardship or financial stress from a loss of income in your family. Protecting your mental health is just as important as protecting your physical health.

This week in the Francis Collins: Home Edition, I took the time to video chat with Josh Gordon, director of the National Institute of Mental Health and a practicing psychiatrist for a significant portion of his career. I used the opportunity to ask him many of your questions raised during the Virtual Town Hall or received in the coronavirus staff inquiry mailbox, which can be found on the intranet contacts page. In this video, Josh provides guidance on how to know the difference between normal fear reactions and significant mental health symptoms, steps we can take to cope with fear, anxiety, and sadness, when it’s time to seek help, advice for those of us with pre-existing mental illnesses, and how we can actually grow and find meaning in the midst of these challenging circumstances. I urge all of you to take the time to watch this video and review the How to Cope intranet page, which offers important resources about dealing with stress and how to get help.

I’ve asked a group of experts from across NIH to brainstorm ways to provide NIH staff with expert advice and resources for managing stress and coping with the increased pressures and uncertainty during this pandemic. Watch for interactive educational sessions and workshops that will be advertised soon.

Update on Staff COVID-19 Positive Cases

As previously noted, the NIH intranet site on Coronavirus Guidance for Staff is being updated every Friday with the total number of NIH staff with a positive COVID-19 diagnosis. We’ve also added an FAQ that describes the process that takes place when a staff member tests positive. Rest assured that if you’ve been in close proximity to a staff member with a positive COVID-19 diagnosis, you will be contacted by the Occupational Medical Service (OMS).

I want to remind everyone that if you believe you have been exposed to the novel coronavirus or are sick with COVID-19, please do not come into work.

Our guidance has not changed – stay home or go home immediately, call ahead to your primary care physician, and follow their advice. Then contact your supervisor and OMS. The only way we can stop transmission is by strictly following the guidance.

Intranet Access without VPN

NIH staff can now access the NIH Coronavirus Intranet page without having to connect to VPN.  Just select the COVID-19 Guidance for NIH Staff badge listed under Federal Resources on the public NIH Coronavirus webpage, and log in with your NIH PIV card credentials when prompted. Contact the NIH IT Service Desk if you need assistance.

I encourage you to continue to check the staff intranet site frequently. New information is being added all the time. There are more than 50 Frequently Asked Questions, which are being curated regularly based on your questions. I hope this information continues to be useful to you. Know that the NIH Coronavirus Response Team is working through questions and issues every day.

Keep safe and healthy,

Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D.
NIH Director


 

4-1-2020 Email from Francis Collins, MD/PhD, Director, NIH: CORONAVIRUS UPDATE – Maintaining an Inclusive Work Environment


Dear NIH Family,

Many of you participated in the Virtual Town Hall held on Friday, March 20th with NIH leaders. I would like to thank each of you personally for your thoughtful comments and questions. It is apparent how fears and concerns regarding the health and well-being of our community have expanded during this COVID-19 public health emergency. Aside from physical health concerns, the pandemic may be stressful to many of us. It can be difficult to cope with fear and anxiety, changing daily routines, a general sense of uncertainty, financial and economic hardships, social isolation, and/or stigmatization. I join you in acknowledging there are other unforeseen effects stemming from this global health pandemic. One of the unforeseen effects is the heightened social discrimination experienced by members of the Asian American and Pacific Islander, aging, chronically ill, and healthcare provider communities.

The workforce at NIH is inherently diverse and international, and many NIH employees identify with the categories listed above. This inclusiveness is what allows us to do great work. People of varying backgrounds come together in this unique place and make discoveries that change the health of the world. While these times may seem daunting, I believe that this can be an excellent opportunity for the NIH community to join together in solidarity and support those who may be struggling.

We all hold the responsibility of contributing to the creation and maintenance of a workplace free from discrimination and harassment. As our partners at the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission have shared, every employee has the right to a safe work environment, even in the most stressful of times. Now is an opportunity for the NIH family to exemplify empathy, inclusion, and respect for one another.

If at any moment you feel you are being mistreated or experiencing discrimination during these difficult times, our staff in the NIH Civil Program, the Employee Assistance Program, and the Office of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion are available to serve your needs. Below I have included the ways you can reach staff in each of these offices.

  • The NIH Civil Program provides an online reporting form and anti-harassment hotline (833-224-3829) for use by the NIH community in reporting harassment or inappropriate conduct.
  • The Employee Assistance Program offers numerous resources to employees who may need some additional support while navigating our current public health crisis. The services offered by EAP are also available to NIH employees’ immediate family members. The EAP program can be reached at 301-496-3164.

Thank you again for all you do. I look forward to our continued work together in the days and months ahead.

Sincerely yours,

Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D.
Director


3-28-2020 Email from Michael Gottesman, MD, NIH Deputy Director for Intramural Research: New Scientific Interest Group and Intramural Sourcebook Section for COVID-19 Research

Dear Colleagues,

We have created a new trans-NIH scientific interest group (SIG) and a new section of the Office of Intramural Research (OIR) Sourcebook to provide guidance and to facilitate discussions among NIH staff concerning research on SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19.

The new Sourcebook section, at https://oir.nih.gov/covid-19 , brings together documents previously distributed to staff concerning laboratory and clinical operations, as well as links to resources for trainees and the broader scientific staff.

The new COVID-19 Scientific Interest Group (and its accompanying e-mail list) is for our scientific community — both intramural and extramural — to exchange information about coronavirus-related research. Information on the COVID-19 SIG can be found at https://oir.nih.gov/sigs/covid-19-scientific-interest-group, including information on how to subscribe to the SIG’s listserv.

We also are seeking leadership for the COVID-19 Scientific Interest Group.  We could use up to three senior-level scientist volunteers from diverse scientific backgrounds to coordinate discussions and activities, including organizing meetings via remote-interface technologies. If you are interested in leading this new COVID-19 SIG, please contact Chuck Dearolf at dearolfc@mail.nih.gov as soon as possible.

My sense is that many in our scientific community want to do something in the face of this pandemic, have great ideas, and need the ability to coordinate with others across the NIH.  The NIH has a rich history of responding to public health emergencies, such as HIV/AIDS and ebolavirus.  With this fast-moving coronavirus pandemic, better communication among our scientific staff is essential.

Michael Gottesman, M.D.
NIH Deputy Director for Intramural Research


 

3-27-2020 Email from Francis Collins, MD/Phd, NIH Director: CORONAVIRUS UPDATE - New Video Chat, Case Numbers, Intramural Lab Transition, and How to Help

Dear NIH Family:

We’ve made it through another week. That included large-scale telework for many of us, and dedicated efforts at patient care and other mission-critical efforts by others of us. I want to thank you for playing your part. I know this is not easy. Speaking for myself, I think I took for granted the significance of the face-to-face meetings that are such a big part of NIH work life.  Now we are all learning how isolating it can feel when we aren’t physically in the same place with our colleagues. To counter that, however, I’ve been amazed by the creative ways being used to stay connected with regular virtual meetings — such as Watercooler Wednesdays and Meet Up Fridays. Kudos to the Center for Information Technology (CIT) and the chief information officers at each of our Institutes and Centers for their incredible support in making our transition to telework so smooth and productive. I think I’ve used every remote tool in the toolbox with the help of CIT – Skype, Zoom, WebEx, BlueJeans, VBrick – you name it, I’ve probably used it.

Given that telework is the new normal for the time being, I’m introducing a new video chat series called Francis Collins: Home Edition. This week I was able to catch up with the ever-busy Tony Fauci, our Scientist-in-Chief on COVID-19, who is beloved and respected the world over for his tenacious commitment to accuracy and the ability to communicate complicated issues. I know many of you were disappointed when he wasn’t able to make last Friday’s Virtual Town Hall, so I took the opportunity to ask him many of your questions about his role in leading the science on COVID-19, vaccines and treatments on the horizon, and the facts in response to many of our public health questions. He had just made it home that evening after another White House press conference, and he still had to appear on CNN. He really wanted to reach out to all of you, and so he took about an hour to tape these three segments with me. I’m not sure he ever got dinner. His comments are full of interesting observations and recommendations. I hope you take the time to watch them.

Update on Number of Known Positive Cases of NIH Staff

By now, you may have noticed that we’ve placed a counter on the NIH staff intranet home page that provides the total number of NIH staff who have tested positive for COVID-19. The total number will be updated every Friday at 2:00 p.m. to keep you apprised of how this disease is affecting our community. At this time, there are 28 staff members who have tested positive. We are hopeful that the physical distancing principles we are all following, both at work and at home, will help slow the rise in these numbers.

Transition of Intramural Laboratories

Our intramural researchers have been working hard to shift non-mission-critical laboratory operations to a minimal maintenance phase. This guidance is posted on the Office of Intramural Research (OIR) website. I know this action has created heightened angst among our trainee community (postbacs, predocs, postdocs, and fellows) who are concerned that a prolonged slow-down will have negative consequences on their research careers. OIR and the Office of Intramural Training and Education (OITE) are implementing several measures to limit any potential negative effects of the current situation and assure our trainees that they have our full support. These measures include allowing extensions of training periods and offering an online format for the postbac poster day. I’m really looking forward to seeing their work and hope all of you also find time to support these early career scientists. OITE has launched a dedicated web page that addresses many of our trainees’ concerns and is offering many on-line career development and wellness programs. I strongly encourage our trainees to take advantage of these important resources. OITE also plans to use remote onboarding for postbacs, predocs, and postdocs on intramural research/cancer research training awards and allowing delayed start dates. If trainees have questions, please contact OITE Director Sharon Milgram.

How to Help

We’ve been hearing from so many people asking how they can help. The NIH Occupational Medical Service (OMS) and Clinical Center are in dire need of specific Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). If your lab has the following items that you are willing to donate, please email your contact information, list and quantity of items, and your building/room location to DOHS_COVID19@mail.nih.gov:

  • 2-inch silk tape
  • Chemo gowns in XL
  • Extended cuff gloves in medium, XL
  • Flocked swabs and polyester swabs
  • Hood with filter for MAXAIR (PAPR) in medium/large
  • Hydrogen peroxide spray
  • N95 mask respirator (cup shaped)
  • Pocket-size hand antiseptic
  • Surgical masks with fluid shield ties
  • Sanitizer hand foam pumps (500 ml),

Additionally, the NIH Blood Bank is in urgent need of blood and platelet donors. There have been a few changes to the usual process for donation, so please visit the NIH Blood Bank web page to schedule a donation and receive the proper instructions. Earlier this week, Eric Hargan, Deputy Secretary for HHS, and his wife Emily donated.

We are in unprecedented times, but we are resilient. As always, thank you for all you do in support of the NIH mission. And remember, hope is contagious.  While we must keep physical space between us, we can continue to spread hope.

Stay safe out there,

Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D.
NIH Director



3-20-2020 Email from Francis Collins: CORONAVIRUS UPDATE: Virtual Town Hall, Screening and Testing, Staff COVID-19 Cases, Telework Extension

Dear NIH Family:

Wow; what an incredible turnout at today’s Virtual Town Hall. We had more than 23,000 staff watching the videocast, and more than 1,900 questions submitted. That’s downright amazing! But if you missed it, don’t worry. The videocast will be archived on the NIH Guidance for Staff on Coronavirus intranet page, and will also be posted on the NIH videocast past events page early next week. And while we did get through quite a few of your questions, we certainly didn’t make it through all of them – I calculate that would have taken about 32 hours! Rest assured that we have a team of people reviewing all 1,900 questions, sorting them by themes, and putting together answers. Answers to those questions that were frequently asked will be posted on the intranet FAQ page as soon as possible.

While I know it’s late on a Friday night, I would like to take the time to recap a few of the many important topics covered at today’s event.

Screening and Testing for NIH Staff

Today, we talked a lot about the tremendous job of the NIH Occupational Medical Service (OMS). OMS physicians and nurses have been working tirelessly with NIH staff to screen for COVID-19 and provide medical advice. All NIH staff, including employees, contractors, trainees, and volunteers, are able to access the services at OMS. In fact, to support OMS’ efforts, we recently stood up a call center with 22 additional staff to aid in their efforts. OMS has also received an outpouring of support from NIH staff who want to volunteer. I can’t say I was surprised. When things get tough, NIH staff always rise to the occasion. If you are a healthcare professional and are interested in volunteering, please send an email to DOHS_COVID19@mail.nih.gov.

OMS is prepared to schedule testing for NIH staff in the Maryland area, if warranted. Note that testing is prioritized for individuals who are symptomatic with fever and/or cough, and who have a higher risk of adverse health consequences. Only OMS can schedule an appointment for testing at NIH, so please, follow the instructions on the intranet page. Do not show up in person to OMS or NIH, particularly if you are experiencing symptoms. This will only put people at risk, stress the system, and slow the process. For NIH staff outside of the Maryland area (such as North Carolina or Montana), OMS will provide telephone screening, medical advice, and if testing is warranted, a list of testing locations in your area.

Update on Number of Known Positive Cases of NIH Staff

In my March 15 email to all staff, I promised that I would provide a weekly update on the number of NIH staff who we know have tested positive for COVID-19. As of this writing, there have been six staff members who are known to have tested positive. In all instances, immediate steps have been taken to mitigate transmission. This includes guidance to the individual on self-isolation, medical care, and close monitoring. It also involves immediate contact tracing with recommendations for testing of close contacts and ongoing monitoring. If you are a contact, you will be notified. Additionally, any facilities where staff with confirmed COVID-19 were present will be closed for 7 days to allow environmental rest and required cleaning for disinfection before being cleared for occupancy.

While I recognize there is a high level of anxiety and fear about getting sick, we must always ensure that we respect each other’s privacy. Under no circumstance should an NIH staff member circulate personally identifiable information about another staff member. If you have a concern, speak to your supervisor.

Telework Extension

Given the evidence that the COVID-19 pandemic is unlikely to come under control soon, we also announced at today’s event that telework has been extended through May 1. We are encouraging supervisors to be as flexible as possible to allow staff to work at home, in some cases while also managing dependent care. This includes allowing flexible hours or split schedules.  Let’s make sure we are doing our best to support each other in this very difficult time and use the flexibilities offered to us.

I’d like to leave you with a wonderful quote by Admiral William McRaven that I read this morning in his Washington Post Op Ed.  “ . . . make no mistake about it, we will prevail, because the only thing more contagious than a virus is hope.” Well, we are the National Institutes of Hope. I urge you to please, spread that hope . . . to your families, to your neighbors, and to yourself. We will get through this. Stay safe, continue to do the great work you’re doing, and thank you for all you do for this great agency and its noble mission.

Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D
NIH Director


 

3-20-2020 Email from Michael Gottesman: Reducing Physical Presence of Staff in Intramural Labs to Minimal Levels

Dear colleagues,

By now you have seen the message below from Dr. Collins outlining the steps we are taking to protect the NIH lab-based workforce.

I am attaching a more detailed policy that we must follow at the NIH.  Please read and follow this policy carefully.  We expect all labs to develop a minimal staffing plan for maintenance only, with exceptions possible for mission critical research.

If you have questions, contact your SD;  for fellows, you can contact Sharon Milgram (sharon.milgram@nih.gov).

Michael Gottesman, M.D.
Deputy Director for Intramural Research
NIH


 

3-20-2020 Email from Francis Collins: CORONAVIRUS UPDATE: Reducing Physical Presence of Staff in Intramural Labs to Minimal Levels

Dear NIH Family,

On Friday, March 13, 2020, I issued guidance to all NIH staff, encouraging those who are telework-eligible to telework to the maximum extent possible -- to promote social distancing and diminish the risk of transmission of COVID-19. That guidance had a very significant effect on the physical presence of administrative and extramural staff at NIH, most of whom were able to function remotely.  But beginning Monday, March 23, the NIH Intramural Research Program will also shift to a mode that minimizes the physical presence of staff in NIH laboratories, so that only mission-critical functions will be supported. These measures further our efforts to ensure the safety of our workforce.

Mission critical functions include:

  1. care of research participants in NIH clinical protocols that are non-elective,
  2. research directly on COVID-19,
  3. urgent public health research recommended by the Clinical Director/Scientific Director/Director of an IC and approved by a research subcommittee of the NIH COVID-19 Response Team,
  4. work involving significant research investments that could be lost if not continued (also to be reviewed by the Response Team subcommittee), and
  5. protection of life, property, and resources, including the care of research animals

NIH staff supporting non-critical functions should strictly limit their presence in the laboratory to serve only minimal maintenance functions. To ensure this plan is fully implemented, no more than one person per principal investigator (PI) should be present in the lab at any given time, unless there is a defined safety issue that the Scientific Director (SD) has approved.  In most cases, personnel should not be in the labs at all.

Further guidance follows:

  • Only one person per lab team in a laboratory space at a time (including the PI).
  • Staff undertaking these critical functions should do so on a voluntary basis. Managers cannot require staff to go into the lab.
  • The recommendation is for a single individual to be present for only a few hours a day to maintain important resources and lab functions. 
  • Care should be taken to select experienced and reliable personnel. Only in exceptional circumstances should a postbac be asked to shoulder this responsibility.
  • It does not always need to be the same lab member – labs should consider establishing a rotation, when possible.
  • Managers must provide the name(s) of the individual(s) who will be in the lab to the SD of their Institute or Center.
  • This provides an additional level of accountability to assure that such assignments are purely voluntary.
  • SDs and PIs should set realistic expectations as to what the individual can safely accomplish during a minimal, limited time period in the lab.
  • SDs and PIs should be readily available to onsite lab staff at all times.
  • Only an SD can approve the presence of a second person in the laboratory at a given time. This will mostly apply for labs that require two people for procedures judged to be a safety concern.
  • In circumstances where more than one PI occupies a shared laboratory space, a collaborative staffing plan must be worked out to accommodate the rigorous social distancing principles incorporated in this guidance.

This staffing approach is designed to maintain mission critical functions and avoid loss of resources – but purposefully is not intended to support initiation of new experimental programs.  Also please note that for ongoing animal experiments, staff will continue to care for animals, but no new animals should be ordered.

As stated, administrative functions that can be conducted by telework should follow the previous guidance. Likewise, all research functions that can be conducted remotely, such as data analysis, literature reviews, drafting and review of manuscripts, should be conducted by telework.

I know these are difficult times, but we will get through this. I appreciate your understanding and flexibility as we work to protect our staff and the community around us.

Sincerely yours,

Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D.
Director, NIH


 

3-19-2020 Email From Michael Gottesman to the NIH Community: Cancellation of 2020 Intramural Summer Program

Dear All:

I am writing to inform you that the NIH has made the difficult decision to cancel the 2020 NIH Intramural Summer Internship Program. We must put the health and safety of participants and our community first and do our part to stop community spread of Sars-Cov2 through social distancing. Therefore, hosting 1000+ early career scientists who deserve close supervision and intense mentoring is not appropriate at this time. Rather than hosting students at the NIH, the office of intramural research (OITE) will work together with the ICs to sponsor a robust series of on-line offerings for students at all educational levels. These offering will leverage expertise across the NIH and will focus on the exciting science we do and on important career and professional development topics. We will have more information about this effort at a later date.

A few critical pieces of guidance. This policy applies to all SIP applicants, even those that might be able to accomplish their work remotely. In addition, no student may be appointed as a Special Volunteer or student IRTA/CRTA, effective immediately and continuing at least through August 15, 2020.

OITE will notify all accepted SIP students of this decision via the central application portal. We will tell these students that we hope to welcome them to NIH in 2021. We will need to work out details, but our hope is that any student accepted this year will be offered a position next year without having to recompete. Determining how to do this will require discussion with the IC training directors and summer coordinators, but I am confident we can make a plan that will work. We will also notify applicants who are still seeking positions that they should stop doing so and will close the SIP2020 portal today.

We appreciate how important the NIH SIP is to the students who participate, and to our community, and acknowledge how disappointing this decision is for all of us. We are happy to answer any questions you have.

Best wishes,

Michael M. Gottesman, M.D.
Deputy Director for Intramural Research

Sharon Milgram, Ph.D.
Director, Office of Intramural Training and Education
(to whom inquiries should be addressed at sharon.milgram@nih.gov)


 

3-16-2020 Email from Sharon Milgram, PhD, Director, OITE, Trainee Telework

Dear All:

I hope you are feeling well and dealing with these uncertain times with a sense of calm focus and resilience. I am writing to urge you to comply with Dr. Collins’ strong encouragement to begin teleworking starting today. The reason behind our request that you telework is to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus and it is critical that you comply with Dr. Collins’ request.  Furthermore, even when you are not at NIH, please practice social distancing. If you do not have government-issued equipment, you should complete literature reviews and participate in OITE- and IC-sponsored webinars and on-line trainings from home.  All trainees will continue to receive stipends throughout this telework period.  If you do NOT have access to your NIH email outside of work, please provide us with an email address where we can reach you by visiting https://www.training.nih.gov/sas/_20/1802/ and completing this short survey. We will forward updates from the NIH and information on web-based activities to continue your research and career training; if you have access to your NIH email, there is no need to complete this survey.  For now, please visit www.training.nih.gov to learn about our on-line career development, stress management and wellness workshop. Also, remember that the NIH Employee Assistance Program (301-402-4845) is available for consultation during these challenging times.

If you develop symptoms consistent with COVID-19, please stay home and call your healthcare provider for medical advice. As soon as you are able, contact your supervisor and NIH Occupational Medical Service. For additional information, please refer to the intranet site and the CDC Coronavirus webpage, which includes information on risk levels of exposure and information and resources to cope with this stress and ensure your mental health. Please reach out to me if you have questions or concerns and I will do my best to address them.

Be safe, wash your hands, and take care of yourselves!

Sharon
NOTE: Check out our Trainee Telework FAQs.

3-13-2020 Email from Sharon Milgram: Message to Trainees Regarding SARS-Cov2


Dear NIH Trainees:

I am writing with additional guidance regarding the workplace flexibilities in light of the rapidly evolving situation with the Sars-Cov2 outbreak. First and foremost, your health and well-being comes first. If you feel sick with fever or respiratory illness, stay at home and contact your healthcare provider and, if you test positive for Sars-CoV2, also contact Occupational Medical Services (OMS) at NIH who can help evaluate your situation (301-496-4411). Please refer to the intranet page for additional information if you have traveled to areas with high numbers of Sars-Cov2 cases or have been in contact with individuals with Sars-Cov2.

We have had many inquiries regarding telework and other workplace flexibilities for trainees. We appreciate that this is a more pressing questions now that schools in the area have closed. Dr. Collins issued the following guidance regarding telework for NIH trainees; this guidance is effective Monday, March 16.

Workplace flexibility for trainees
We have a particular responsibility to support our trainees who are in need of special consideration.  Supervisors should identify opportunities for trainees to telework. If telework is not an appropriate option, trainees who wish to remain at home will continue to be paid if they are unable to report to work – though other off-site activities such as literature reviews can be encouraged. Visiting Fellows should contact the Division of International Services (DIS@mail.nih.gov with the subject: Telework or Extended Absence) if they choose to telework or plan to be absent from work for a prolonged period of time.

ICs should provide VPN access to trainees who have government-issued computers if possible. Trainees who do not have government-issued computers may also telework if they have activities that can be completed without a government laptop (i.e., reading papers, preparing a literature review, etc.). Trainees may also participate in fellowship activities that are a part of their NIH appointment status, including OITE workshops, career counseling, and wellness-related activities remotely.

OITE services for trainees
We know that wellness group meetings are particularly important during stressful times. Next week, we will offer a web-based resilience workshop and we are in the process of moving all other wellness activities to on-line platforms. Watch the WHAT’S NEW column on the OITE homepage for updates. Also, remember that the Employee Assistance Program (EAP) will continue to be available to help you work through any difficulties you experience You can reach the EAP at 301-496-3164.

Although we are all focused on the rapidly changing news, it is also important to keep in mind that many of you are in the midst of job searches and the graduate/professional school application cycle. The OITE will ensure that you have continued access to OITE staff members during the coming weeks, and are willing to meet virtually by phone, Skype, WebEx, or another electronic platform. We will continue to follow the regular process for making career counseling appointments. You can find all of this information at www.training.nih.gov.

IF you cannot access your NIH email account from outside the NIH, please take a moment to go to https://www.training.nih.gov/sas/_20/1802/ and share your personal email address with us. We will use the information to create a trainee listserv that we will use to communicate with you during this time. IF you CAN access your NIH email account from outside the NIH, you need do nothing.

I appreciate that each of you has unique situations to sort out and contend with. Please do not hesitate to email me (milgrams@nih.gov) and I will do my best to address any concerns you may have. Wishing you, and those you love, health and safety in these challenging times.

With best wishes,

Sharon

Dr. Sharon L. Milgram
Director, NIH OITE
milgrams@od.nih.gov