June 25, 2010

Grant to fund test of new teaching paradigm

Featured Image

Josiah Macy Jr. Foundation President George Thibault, M.D., center, talks with Jeff Balser, M.D., Ph.D., and Bonnie Miller, M.D., following his recent lecture at VUMC. (photo by Anne Rayner)

Grant to fund test of new teaching paradigm

The Josiah Macy Jr. Foundation has awarded a three-year, $600,000 grant to Vanderbilt University's Schools of Medicine and Nursing to administer a new type of curriculum that would bring students in different disciplines together to learn to serve patients as a team.

The pilot program is called the Vanderbilt University Fellowship in Inter-professional Learning.

Bonnie Miller, M.D., senior associate dean for Health Sciences Education at VUSM, is the principal investigator. Linda Norman, D.S.N., R.N., senior associate dean for Academics at VUSN, and Don Moore, Ph.D., professor of Medical Education and Administration and director of Continuing Medical Education at the School of Medicine, are co-investigators.

In this new program, first-year medical students and first-year advanced nurse practitioner students from Vanderbilt will join with first-year pharmacy students from Lipscomb University and Belmont University Schools of Pharmacy and first-year Master's-level social work students from Tennessee State University's School of Social Work.

"These students are coming together for a unique, longitudinal learning opportunity so their entire team will learn everything from patient safety to clinical systems as one integrated team,” Norman said. “The result will be a new health care delivery model that stresses efficient and integrated plans of care for patients.”

A number of academic institutions across the country are working on pilot inter-professional learning projects in the classroom setting, but the Vanderbilt program takes the concept a step further in keeping the team together in a single clinical setting from start to finish.

Vanderbilt is one of seven inter-professional programs invited to a Carnegie-Macy Conference in June to discuss both the structure and goals of these programs as well as the challenges they face for the future.

About a quarter of incoming medical students and a third of incoming nursing students applied for the 16 open Vanderbilt slots in the program.

A total of 32 students, eight from each discipline, will make up the first class, which will come together for a two-week team-building immersion course beginning July 19.

The students will work together in groups assigned to one of four clinic sites. It is based on the “Shade Tree Clinic model,” mirroring the work performed in the student-run health clinic in East Nashville. Students make what Miller calls “meaningful contributions to care,” which means everything from taking blood pressures to working through a medication care plan.

“The program is intended to last the duration of the students' degree programs. It is hoped that students further along in the program can mentor newer students so that the program will take on a life of its own,” Miller said.

When coursework begins in the fall, students will attend a special half-day of class work and half-day of clinic together each week, complementing their regular studies.

According to Miller, formulating the plan and writing the grant itself was an exercise in teamwork for the more than 30 people involved.

“I have to stress how much work a large team of individuals has put into this. It's a real team effort, so that planning the program itself has been an exercise in teamwork. It has gone very well and has made everyone feel very good about it,” Miller said.