The Shift to Virtual


Provide has always prided itself on meeting providers where they are, training them on the best practices to refer abortions. And this doesn’t just mean physically — although Leigh Koetsch, Training and Outreach Coordinator, can share a time that she trained folks in a room the size of a closet or the countless other times she drove miles and miles to rural communities — but our team also meets providers at a personal level. Providers are just people and they show up with stigma and bias, so our team works to build strong and meaningful relationships with everyone that attends. The end goal? We aim to eradicate stigma and eliminate misinformation so that providers change institutional practices that respect bodily autonomy for all clients.


When COVID-19 hit the country this spring, our compassionate team wondered how they would still foster those relationships without the ability to connect in person. And it wasn’t long before a membership association, serving substance abuse organizations, reached out to offer our trusted curriculum to their membership.


In our strategic planning, we started thinking about adding virtual trainings. This year we originally planned to adhere to our usual methodology of rolling out new platforms and programs: pilot, receive feedback, evaluate, readjust, launch. With the onset of closures and quarantine, our process was expediated. With staff that rallies in the moment, it was no surprise that two of our Training and Outreach Coordinators rose their hands to take the lead.


Sarah Cannady and Leigh Koetsch said, “While they would have loved more time, sometimes you just have to jump right in.” That’s exactly what they did, while also considering Provide’s philosophy of meeting providers where they are, as they developed the platform. The first step: understanding best practices to facilitate engaged online programs. A few must-haves were developed:

  • Shift to two days, rather than the 1-day format of in-person trainings. Zoom fatigue is real!

  • Make Zoom like a training room. Sarah greeted everyone person by name as they joined.

  • Create space for conversations and engagement.

  • Give homework (and yes, 100% of participants completed).


Of course, the experience didn’t come without lessons learned. Sarah and Leigh emphasized the most important lesson: every person comes to the screen with different circumstances. For example, most people didn’t have a ready-made office, and parents continue to balance working and helping children with virtual school. Recognizing this reality means reframing what it means to participate. As facilitators, Sarah and Leigh didn’t shy away from naming this experience and asked folks to show up in the way that made sense for them.


Participants responded amazingly well to our first virtual Referrals Training. Satisfaction rates were identical with our in-person trainings from the past two years, with 95% of participants reporting “very satisfied” with the teaching methods and activities. This feedback gave Sarah and Leigh the confidence to continue pushing forward in this new virtual world. In 2021, we will continue developing web-based trainings and webinars to reach more providers. Stay tuned for more updates on this exciting new path.