Transforming Medical Education: Trust, Time, Teams & Technology

28 11 2011

This past Thanksgiving, I was able to reflect on the always jam-packed and inspiring Association of American Medical Colleges 2011 Meeting that took place earlier this month in Denver.  The theme of the meeting was transformation.  It was certainly an interesting theme with the undertones of economic recession and the GME funding crisis- and that was before the failure of the Supercommittee to reach a resolution.  So, how does medical education need to transform?  In more ways than one, it turns out.  So here are just 4 that were the recurring themes of the meeting and being a fan of alliteration, they all begin with “T”.

  • Trust – it was clear that we need to restore the Americans people trust in physicians and in the medical education process.  While students enter medicine to make a difference, something that they see in their journey to becoming a physician makes them jaded and they sometimes lose sight of their initial intention. Is it debt, burnout, role models…Or likely some combination of the 3? It does not matter, because we have to restore their faith in teaching– yes teaching.  Teaching is the heart and soul of our medical education and it is sometimes the easiest to lose in an academic health center focused on NIH dollars or US news world report rankings.  In addition to teaching our students, it is time to teach another constituency, our patients and Congress about the critical need for medical education.   And in fact, advocacy is something we need to be teaching our own trainees so they can engage in the dialogue regarding the future of healthcare.
  • Time- perhaps the most radical proposal advanced was by Victor Fuchs who suggested that we radically redesign medical school to have medical students specialize 2 years after medical school and enter specific pathways like they do in many other countries and in other fields.  I’m all for shortening dwell time for our medical trainees, but I am not so sure that young people are ready to make a serious commitment about what they want to do at such an early age.  There has to be a middle ground since at the same time, one of the most well attended sessions was “who cares about the 4th year of medical school?” which included many insightful comments about the need for reflection and consolidation of core skills.  So, clearly not all time is easily tossed to the waste side.
  • Teams- given the projected shortage of over 90,000 physicians by 2020, it is important to reorganize care into teams.  While there is a lot of controversy about what to call nurses who have PhDs, that was not the focus of the meeting. It was about how can you encourage everyone to practice to their highest level of certification.  Team based competences have actually been developed by several groups and have been advanced by many schools with inter professional learning.  One difficulty we face at home is that we don’t have allied health professions, but we are brainstorming how to involve actual nurses and pharmacists in training medical students.
  • Technology -there was a lot of discussion about technology to boost medical education.  There was even a technology in medical education abstract session moderated by @motherinmedicine and including podcasts, iPads, and social media in medicine.  Perhaps the most interesting speaker was Chuck Friedman at the University of Michigan who is the former technology czar of the US and eloquently highlighted the need for moving medical education from wrote memorization to a distributed knowledge where the most important information future physicians will need to know is not what the information is off the top of their head BUT how to access information.  He went so far to say testing would move to “unassisted testing” followed by “cloud-supported testing” which would then merge into a pass or fail based on performance on both.  I know all of us who certified or recertified recently would welcome assistance from the cloud- it is after all the closest approximation to real medicine.  However, my hands down favorite moment of this session was when someone astutely asked what about these physicians when the power goes out or when the computer system fries.  His response was simple and so spot on… “Dont get me started on the state of IT in our teaching hospitals”.
So, while we just celebrated a holiday and accompanying ritual to give thanks, it is now time for medical educators to transcend the traditional status quo and instead test novel techniques to transform medical training — not only to restore public trust but so we can also train the trainees who will treat us in the future.
–Vineet Arora MD




Rising Above the Sea of MacBooks: “Edu-tainment” and Other Tips

12 09 2011

Although Steve Jobs has stepped down as CEO of Apple, his legacy for physicians-in-training is very palpable. Or should that be visual – As I looked into the auditorium of eager and bright incoming medical students this Summer, I saw a bunch of Apple’s staring back at me – sleek, silver and unmistakably MacBooks.  This is the millennial generation so why would I be surprised?  Maybe because it is more ever-present than before this year.  Could it be that the entering class of 2015 had more millenials?  Actually, another hypothesis has also been put forth that is equally if not more plausible…our medical school auditoriums were installed with new desks and chairs.  While these were well received, the desks served as an inviting surface just beckoning for the MacBooks to be placed there.    As a result, you’re never sure if you’re competing with Facebook, the worldwide internet, or even email messages that appear more interesting than your class.   Since lecture capture technology has made it possible for people to view lectures from home, it’s important to make attending lecture in person worthwhile.  Well, here are some tips for medical educators who ‘lecture’ in this new age.

1.  Engage in “edu-tainment” – As Scott Litin at Mayo refers to it, “edu-tainment” is the goal – entertainment via education.  How does one incorporate entertainment into lecture style?  Well, the easiest way is through humor.  This is difficult since not everyone is funny by nature so it may be that you have to inject humor in odd ways.

2. Play games – Games are inherently fun and interactive can stimulate a lot of learning and discussion.  While you may be thinking about computer games, easy games can often stimulate learning.  One of our research ethics faculty played 20 questions with the group of students to teach about landmark research ethics cases.

3. Turn into a talk show – There is nothing more boring than watching the same person for an hour give a talk.  It is much more interesting to watch a panel of people tell a story about themselves – whether it be a patient, another physician, or another student.  I still remember medical school lectures with invited guests that had this talk show appeal due to the lack of power point and focus on the story.  While I’m not suggesting a Jerry Springer approach, who doesn’t love Oprah – at least Chicago has several role models to choose from.

4. Showcase video – Video is one of my favorite teaching tricks.  One well made video can communicate a thousand research articles.  In our week of Scholarship and Discovery, our faculty used videos from Xtranormal (no it was not the famous orthopedics vs anesthesia) but a similar one.  One faculty who could not attend taped a welcome introduction, and another used a clip from “Off the Map” which is now off the air but is still an effective reminder of how NOT to perceive global health.

5. Use audience response – Use of Turning Point clickers can result in instant feedback and engagement with students as they see the results of their poll immediately. It also tells you how many people who up to class!  The only problem is that passing out the clickers and collecting them can be rather time consuming.  So, another possibility is to issue them at the start of class which is done in some colleges and used as a way to count attendance (until a brilliant undergrad brings in a bunch of clickers to class to vote for their lazier friends!).  Here Steve Jobs can help again – Turning Point has audience response systems for iPhones and iPads that can be used and automatically identify people- but it would require that everyone have a smartphone and purchase a license to the software.

6. Refer to the internet– Given that students are on the computer, you can take advantage of it and ask them to visit internet resources in class by showing them urls or web pages that are of use.  Sometimes you may actually refer to your own course website like we do.

7. Provide fancy color handouts – While handouts may sound like they have gone by the waste side, there is nothing like a fancy color brochure or handout to create a “buzz”.  It’s almost like a souvenir of their hard journey to class that day.  If you ever want to provide someone with a ‘leave behind’ that looks important, lamination is key.  A color laminated leave-behind is even better.  Pocket cards are some of my favorites.

Is there any guarantee these tips will work?  Of course not.  But, what’s the harm in trying?  While some professional schools have gone so far as to block wireless in lecture halls, the truth is that current medicine is augmented with the help of computers and online resources- so we should figure out how medical education can be too.

–Vineet Arora, MD





The 5 F’s for Futuredocs and New Interns

26 06 2011

 

Yesterday, a tweet caught my attention from @JasonYoungMD who stated “My Five Foundations of Felling Fine: Food, Fitness, Friends & Family, Falling Asleep, Fulfillment.”  This seemed like the best advice I had heard for the newbie interns taking teaching hospitals by storm as well as the rising third year medical students who are about to be unleashed on the wards (if they haven’t already).  It also is a great starting point for program directors who are wondering how to ensure that their residents are “Fit for duty” according to the new ACGME rules.

 

  1. Food – While this is basic part of sustenance, finding food sometimes in the hospital can be challenging, especially at odd hours.  Fortunately, this has gotten better, but the choices may not be healthier.  In my own hospital, I’ve seen the front lobby transform from a small coffee kiosk (Java Coast which was celebrated when it arrived) to a full fledged Au Bon Pain (ABP as we affectionately refer to it).  While ABP was a welcome addition, it is easy to consume a lot of empty calories eating muffins or breakfast sandwiches!  To make matters worse, research from one of our very own sleep research gurus has shown that the more sleep deprived you are, the worse food choices you make!  Therefore, the thing you will reach for after a night shift is going to be the carbohydrate loaded Danish.  Residency programs must know this and usually have morning reports full of this type of food. So, consider how you will make healthy food choices – whether that be bringing your own food, or finding out where the healthy options are.  Lastly, don’t forget about the empty calories that come with beverages, especially coffee-related drinks.  For you Starbucks fans, there is an app for that – and I guarantee you may change your choices.
  2. Fitness – Like food, fitness can be hard to come by.  Interestingly, working in the hospital can actually be a way to get exercise.  For example, some studies demonstrate that residents walk as much as 6 miles on call!   However, its also just as easy to sit behind a computer and take a “mission control” approach to your call night where you are monitoring all your iPatients.  So, think about this and consider wearing a pedometer and most importantly getting into a routine.  When time is of the essence, find a way to work fitness into your day like taking the stairs in lieu of the elevator, or parking farther away.  If you join a gym, you have to make sure you go…and one easy way of doing this is to make sure your gym is on your way home from work and that is your first stop.  During residency, I actually switched to a gym that was directly on my route home that had a parking lot so I literally had no excuse and actually felt guilty while I drove by and did not stop there.  Others opted for 24hour gym craze that that could work for anyone’s schedule.  Lastly, exercising with a friend will likely lead to greater results than the solo work out.
  3. Friends & Family – Speaking of friends and family, this is the support system that gets interns through residency.  Fortunately, another omnipresent F can be helpful here – Facebook.   Busy interns or students can at least get reminders to electronically wish your friends happy birthday or log in on that random Monday off to reconnect with friends.   It’s also important to set appropriate expectations with your friends and family, for example when you are starting on a time intensive rotation that can be demanding.   Because of the intense nature of working in the hospital, some of you will form fast friendships with your co-interns and residents which can be helpful to get you through.  However, even your closest friends (including those at work) will ask you to choose between them and sleep- which can be very tough when you are running low on sleep.
  4. Falling asleep –So, speaking of sleep, my first question was where do I sleep?   Sounds silly I know, but I actually did not know where the call rooms were or did not have the call room key for my first call night ( I actually can’t remember which) so I ended up going to sleep for an hour in an unoccupied hospital bed.  So, this may not be possible today for 2 reasons: (1) interns are not likely sleeping when working the jam packed 16h shifts; and (2) hospital beds are nearly always filled! Still the challenge for today’s interns is getting sleep when working odd hours, especially if starting night shifts on night float or ‘night medicine’ as programs are evolving to include more night rotations.  If this means you have to invest in window treatments or wear an eyeshade at night, just do it.  There is nothing better than sleep for a resident and the more the better.  While your sleep at home may be limited regardless due to your other family obligations, its important to know your limits and set aside nights where you will recover.
  5. Fulfillment – Last but not least, its important to figure out how to keep yourself happy and fulfilled during your residency.  In some cases, that is a particular hobby or loved one that you need to stay in touch with.  In other cases, fulfillment is more complex.  It is not uncommon to have doubts about your future career as you stand by the fax waiting for outside hospital records, wait on the phone to schedule a follow up appointment for a discharged patient, or even transport a sick patient to get a needed test.  While many are working on ways to reduce the burden of this largely administrative work, interns and medical students are still straddled with a large amount of scut which can be demoralizing.  So, where do you find the fulfillment in your work? Well, you will find it when you least expect it – in the words of a patient who is eternally grateful.  In other cases, you will meet a mentor or role model who shares your passion and interest in medicine, whatever that may be, and can inspire you to keep you going. Whatever it is, find it and hang on to it for dear life during your darkest hours and it will pull you through.

I do need to add one more F to this fine list –  So provided that you are keeping up with the first 5 F’s, the best thing is that being in the hospital, learning medicine, and caring for patients is actually FUN!  So, don’t forget to pause and enjoy it…these tips will also serve you will in the FUTURE!

–Vineet Arora, MD

Other helpful posts to conquer any FEARS of starting on the wards:

What NOT to Wear on the Wards

How to Present to Your Attending








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