Virtual Saline Process Witness Training (SPWT) During COVID-19 – Dr Sharon George and Dr Koshy George

Feedback from our first online training session


From Luke’s Journal Jan 2023  |  Vol.28 No.1  |  Evolving Professionals

Image by Christina Morillo, Pexels

Many of us assumed that 2020 would be the start of a new decade, full of promise, resolutions, and new vision. Although it was a new decade, with new anticipations, it was not the new we expected! For almost all of us, COVID-19 changed the life we once knew. We had to learn to innovate and adapt. For some, it was a new opportunity on a level playing field.

CMDFA and HCF-PI had scheduled Saline Process Witness Training (SPWT) in April and May of 2020 on the Gold Coast and in Brisbane. Unfortunately, these events had to be cancelled. While this was disappointing, it became something exciting as we ventured into a largely unexplored territory for SPWT. To continue the SPWT, we decided to deliver online training via Zoom. On 23 May 2020, HCF-PI and CMDFA conducted a virtual SPWT, our first online training attempt. This was a well-attended all-day online meeting, with participants and 8 trainers from different parts of the country. Afterward, we received encouraging and positive feedback regarding the contents and the delivery. The lessons we learned from this online training experience were shared with HIS and used to formulate guidelines for future virtual SPWT.

What lessons did we learned?

  1. The jury was divided on the virtues of one full-day Zoom meeting. Engaging all day online was thought to be more exhausting than an all-day in-person meeting. The alternative was a two- or six-day online meeting. However, attrition may be a risk. Whatever the schedule, online meetings require a greater degree of focussed concentration. Yet, if the meeting is spread over a couple of days, commitment on the part of the trainers and participants to attend all sessions, could also be challenging.
  2. The on-site schedule/format is not always fully applicable to online learning via Zoom. For example, when presenting in person, each presenter preferred a longer presentation segment (to reduce change-over time and the loss of concentration between presenters). In contrast, with Zoom, it was important to change presenters more often, to maintain interest.
  3. Only one Zoom subscription was required to run the SPWT. Thus, it was relatively low cost. If everyone has adequate internet access, Zoom was relatively easy to navigate, and did not require substantial technical expertise.
  4. It is preferrable that Zoom is used with some degree of security arrangements in place, for example, passwords, waiting rooms, and avoiding aliases. We learned about “Zoom-bombing” (yes it happens!) the hard way at a different meeting. We recommend using the Zoom app for easier implementation of security arrangements Also, keep in mind that aliases might need to be permitted if there are participants from restricted countries.
  5. The Zoom experience reminded us that communication needs to be intentional. The non-verbal cues are lost online, so we must rely on words to convey meanings and emotions in a conversation. Keeping everyone’s camera “on” improved the sense of community. However, the practicality is dependent on internet connections and participant locations. Some participants might need to have the camera “off” for these reasons.
  6. Small group breakout sessions facilitated by a leader encouraged the participants to contribute to discussions more openly, thus making the SPWT more relevant and meaningful. We found that ideas and experiences from different workplaces encouraged and inspired our participants. Early registration and planning are important for allocating participants to breakout rooms based on participant location or field of work, thus, ensuring more relevant connections for future engagement. This may mean adhering to a registration deadline, especially for large groups.
  7. Virtual meetings give meaning to the words from John 4:35, “Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look at the fields, for they are already white for harvest!” Indeed, we were able to reach fields all over the world, and labour with people thousands of miles away without the formality of travel documents, meeting rooms and the associated expenses.
  8. The most important lesson we learned was that SPWT is just as relevant for Christian healthcare workers now as it was pre-COVID-19. As Christian healthcare workers, our beliefs provide the framework for living our lives, personally and professionally. Personally, our faith sustains us. Knowing that others are thinking of us and praying for us is very encouraging. In the workplace, our faith enables us to deliver healthcare with a purpose, engage with every patient with sensitivity and respect, and address the spiritual aspects with a patient if they grant us permission to do so.

More information on SPWT can be found at:

Dr Sharon George and Dr Koshy George
Dr Sharon George and Dr Koshy George moved to Gold Coast in 2004, where Sharon is a GP and Koshy is a neurologist. Prior to this, they worked in Christian mission hospitals, mainly in North India. They have three daughters.


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