Short course

Communicating COVID-19: Preparing clinicians to tackle challenging questions


Communicating COVID-19 will provide the health workforce with evidence-based information and language to confidently address questions surrounding COVID-19 from patients, colleagues and the general public.

Please note, this course is not currently taking enrolments.

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.

Designed For

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.

Learning Outcomes

  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.

Course Units

This course consists of 8 tutorials, 8 self-assessments and 8 case studies. The course is organised thematically around four pillars:

4 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

Skills and Knowledge

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?”
  • Tutorial 2 - Measurement and modelling in COVID-19: “What’s all this about flattening the curve?“
  • Tutorial 3 - Prevention of COVID-19: “Should I wear a mask to go outside?”
  • Tutorial 4 - The science of COVID-19: “What’s a coronavirus, anyway?“
  • Tutorial 5 - Testing in COVID-19: “Someone on the train sneezed today. Can you please test me?”
  • Tutorial 6 - Risk factors in COVID-19: “If I get coronavirus, am I going to die?”
  • Tutorial 7 - Managing patients with COVID-19: “I’ve tested positive for the coronavirus. What now?”
  • Tutorial 8 - Vaccinology, end-games and the future of COVID-19: "When will this all end?”


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


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.


Delivery Mode

Course completion requires approximately 8-10 hours of e-learning. This course is delivered online and students can study in their own time and location. Course materials can be accessed using a web browser.


"Communicating during COVID has been an excellent and insightful course. Presented in a logical and thoughtful way I highly recommend it to all members of the multidisciplinary team."

Course Directors

Associate Professor Rosemary McKenzie, PhD, MPH, BA, PG DIp Hlth Prom

 Associate Professor Rosemary McKenzie

Melbourne School of Population and Global Health, University of Melbourne

Rosemary McKenzie is Director of Teaching and Learning in the Melbourne School of Population and Global Health (MSPGH) and Deputy Director of the Centre for Health Policy. Rosemary is an evaluator and health services researcher focused on health service quality and outcomes. She is a member of the Victorian Health Complaints Commissioner Advisory Council and the Board of Directors of the Peter Mac Cancer Centre. She was a member of the Board of Hepatitis Victoria from 2011-2017.

Professor Rob Moodie, AM, MBBS, MPH, DTMH

Professor Rob Moodie

Melbourne School of Population and Global Health, University of Melbourne

Rob Moodie is Professor of Public Health at the University of Melbourne and at the University of Malawi. He worked in refugee health care in Sudan and for the Aboriginal health service in Alice Springs, then worked for many years on HIV prevention for the Burnet Institute, WHO and UNAIDS. He was CEO of VicHealth from 1998-2007 and from 2008-2011 he chaired the National Preventative Health Taskforce. He has been teaching leadership skills for the last twelve years and is now establishing a program in health leadership in Malawi. He advises WHO on health promotion and non-communicable diseases.

Editorial Board

Professor Nancy Baxter, MD, PhD, FRCSC

Professor Nancy Baxter

Melbourne School of Population and Global Health, University of Melbourne

Professor Marie Gerdtz, PhD, BN, RN, ACEN

Professor Marie Gerdtz

Melbourne School of Population and Global Health, University of Melbourne

Associate Professor Lou Irving, MBBS, FRACGP, FRACP

Associate Professor Lou Irving

Department of Respiratory and Sleep Medicine, Royal Melbourne HospitalFaculty of Medicine, Dentistry and Health Sciences, University of Melbourne

Dr. Kudzai Kanhutu, MBBS(Hons),BA/BSc, MPH, FRACP, MAICD

Dr. Kudzai Kanhutu

Royal Melbourne Hospital / University of Melbourne

Kudzai Kanhutu is an infectious diseases specialist and Deputy Chief Medical Information Officer at the Royal Melbourne Hospital (RMH). Her current work portfolio includes patient care, research and project management with a particular focus on the role that digital technologies can play in addressing health inequity.

Recent career highlights include being nominated as a national Superstar of STEM 2019 - 2020; winning the 2019 Women’s Agenda leadership awards (Science, Health and Medicine), the RMH CEO's innovation award 2018 and the Victorian Department of Health statewide prize for excellence in culturally and linguistically diverse care 2017.

Associate Professor Rosemary McKenzie, PhD, MPH, BA, PG Dip Hlth Prom

Associate Professor Rosemary McKenzie

Melbourne School of Population and Global Health, University of Melbourne

Professor Lena Sanci, MBBS, PhD, DRANZCOG, FRACGP

Professor Lena Sanci

Department of General Practice, School of Medicine, Dentistry and Health Sciences, University of Melbourne

Professor Dick Strugnell, PhD, BSc(Hons), FASM

Professor Dick Strugnell

Department of Microbiology & Immunology
The University of Melbourne & Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity

Educational Design and Course Development

Dr. Louise Freijser, PhD, MPH, CCRN

Dr. Louise Freijser

Melbourne School of Population and Global Health, University of Melbourne

Louise Freijser has a PhD from the Centre of Health Policy (CHP), University of Melbourne and a Master of Public Health, specializing in health policy and program evaluation. She has worked as a researcher, teaching associate and project manager at CHP and the Australian Health Workforce Institute. Prior to this she completed a post-graduate certificate in critical care nursing (Australian Catholic University) and worked as an ED and ICU nurse at the Royal Melbourne Hospital. Her interests include health policy, participatory approaches to the design and delivery of care including co-production and co-design, care coordination and informal care.

Andrew Lau, BSc, MSc

Andrew Lau

Melbourne School of Population and Global Health, University of Melbourne

Andrew Lau is an infectious disease epidemiologist and final-year PhD candidate at the MSPGH, specialising in sexual health. His thesis explores the epidemiology of rectal chlamydia and seeks to inform treatment and management guidelines worldwide. Prior to this, he has worked as a research assistant, teaching associate, and project manager for a large national clinical trial. His research interests include science communication, clinical trial design, sexual and reproductive health, and teaching.

Daniel Roitman

Daniel Roitman

Daniel Roitman has a Master of Public Health, specialising in health policy. Daniel has worked for both federal and state health departments on a range of health reform areas, including the recently signed National Health Reform Agreement and Value-based Health Care. Daniel is also a practicing pharmacist, having graduated from Monash University in 2013. His research interests include global health systems and innovative health payment models.

Shantanu Sheshgir

Shantanu Sheshgir

Shantanu graduated with a Master of Public Health from the University of Melbourne in 2016. He specialised in global health and evaluation with a research project in global health/health systems. His interests lie in health systems strengthening in low- and middle-income settings as well as the co-design and evaluation of health programs for vulnerable population groups.

Shantanu is based in Geelong and serves on the board of an exciting health-tech start up - Open Health. He also works as a Teaching Associate with the Melbourne School of Population and Global Health. Prior to this, he worked as a management consultant with Australian Healthcare Associates, Melbourne, in their evaluation and advisory workstream."

Kyle Turner PhD MAppEpi

Kyle Turner

Dr. Aiden Varan MD(Distinct) MPH BSc(Hons) CPH CHIA

Dr. Aiden Varan

Austin Health & Echuca Regional Health
Melbourne School of Population and Global Health, University of Melbourne

Aiden Varan is a medical intern with Austin Health and Echuca Regional Health in Victoria, Australia. Prior to medical training through the Melbourne Medical School (University of Melbourne), Varan completed a Master of Public Health in Global Epidemiology (Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia) and an Applied Epidemiology Fellowship with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and County of San Diego Public Health Services. He also served as a field epidemiologist with U.S. CDC during the West Africa Ebola outbreak based at the Sierra Leone-Guinea border. His research interests include paediatrics, critical care, epidemiology, data science and health equity.

Clinical Education and Plain Language

Simon Clews

Simon Clews

Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity, University of Melbourne

Simon Clews is writer, editor, arts and literary event organiser and specialist trainer in written and oral communication. He currently is an Honorary (Senior Fellow) at the Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity, prior to which he spent fifteen years as the Director of the Melbourne Engagement Lab at Melbourne University and fourteen years as Festival Director/CEO of the Melbourne Writers’ Festival. His book designed to help academics write, communicate and engage with the outside world, titled The New Academic, will be published by NewSouth Books later this year.


Dr Vinita Rane

Northern Clinical School, Melbourne Medical School, University of Melbourne
General Physician, Northern Health

Dr Vinita Rane is a sexual health/general physician and medical educator. She is the Deputy Director of Medical Education for the Northern Clinical School at the University of Melbourne as well as holding public appointments in General Medicine and Obstetric Medicine at Northern Health, and Sexual Health at Monash Health.

Application Procedure

Applications are not currently being accepted.

Course Fees?

Course Fee: AUD $0

This course is online and you can commence anytime. You can complete this course in your own timeframe and most students will formally finish the course within a 12 month period. Once you have registered for the course, you will have lifetime access to the course content.

Contact Us


T: +61 3 8344 5673

Course Information


Course Fee AUD $ 0 (incl. GST)



Entry requirements

There are no entry requirements for Communicating COVID-19.