October 27, 2000

New class required for all residents

Featured Image

Dr. Todd Bell, resident, works with Dr. Frank Boehm in a role playing exercise during the new class which is required for all residents. (photo by Dana Johnson)

New class required
for all residents

New doctors in Vanderbilt University Medical Center’s Residency Program will now be required to take special core courses as part of their residency program.

The program, Interdisciplinary Core Curriculum for House Staff, which started this fall, is designed to provide special training to the newly graduated medical doctors.

“I think the course is needed to teach doctors the things that fall between disciplines,” said Dr. Deborah C. German, senior associate dean for Medical Education. “This course demonstrates that the medical education program at Vanderbilt is responsive to the concerns of society. Some educators have concerns that doctors don’t really understand patients and that doctors don’t work well with each other or with other health care providers. This course addresses those issues in a proactive way.”

Seven two-hour sessions will be required for a total of 14 hours of training. The sessions are free and required for first-year house staff.

Continued through May 2001, each session is repeated so the residents can find a class that fits into their residency rotation schedule.

The first session covers communication skills, “Special Challenges in Communicating Bad News.”

“The first presentation predominantly used role-play as the teaching mode,” said Dr. Fred Kirchner, Jr., associate dean and director of Graduate Medical Education. “The faculty developed a variety of realistic patients and patient-family scenarios that could be considered sticky situations. It is very important for the new doctors to develop expertise in communicating with these patients and their families.

“Nashville is a fairly cosmopolitan area and many of our patients are from a wide variety of ethnic, religious and societal backgrounds. They react to health care and health care providers in ways that are not what we would consider traditional in our narrow view,” Kirchner said.

A second class, “Diversity: Recognizing Your Patients’ Hot Buttons,” will address those issues, Kirchner said. Other topics to be covered throughout the year are stress management, medical ethics, personal finance, quality improvement, effective leadership and teaching skills.”

The classes will not be lecture only.

“We recognize that asking a tired house staff member to sit for two hours would not be the best way to teach new material,” Kirchner added. “We have stressed to the session leaders that they need to be creative in their teaching methods and use variety in their sessions.

“At the end of each session, the residents will receive instruction on how to access the graduate medical education web site. On the web site will be a post-course evaluation which will address not only how well the residents did, but how well we, the faculty, are doing and to see if our goals and objectives were met.”

The Interdisciplinary Core Curriculum program was endorsed by the House Staff Council and the Executive Faculty. It is mandatory for first-year residents. Residents at other levels are welcome and encouraged to attend, Kirchner said.

Kirchner says prior to this course there had been no real coordination between the various residency programs at VUMC. Each program has been run independently, except for a one-week orientation in late June for incoming house staff. The bulk of resident education still resides within the individual departments.

One hundred thirty-five doctors are in first-year residency training at VUMC. A total of 650 doctors are in the house staff program.

House staff members are newly degreed medical doctors who have recently finished medical school. All states require at least one additional year of training in an accredited residency before becoming licensed. For board certification, a minimum of three years of specialty study is usually required, Kirchner said.

Residents attending the first session were very pleased with the program.

“I think this course requirement is great,” said first-year Emergency Medicine resident Dr. Todd Bell. “In medical school we are taught books, but we are really not taught compassion. This course brings that out a little more.”

“I think it will make me better prepared,” said first-year resident Dr. Patrick Meehan, now working in Pediatric Emergency Medicine. “I have already learned some pointers as far as the direct person-to-person communication and how to better talk to patients and their families. I just look forward to the rest of the classes.”

Kirchner says starting this program is a very important step for the resident house staff. He hopes it will become a national model.

“I think American medicine is somewhat rightly criticized for being technologically in the forefront, but I think there has been a tendency to not pay attention to the humanistic values,” he said. “That has really not been addressed in medical school up until now.”

“In the broader sense,” Kirchner said, “I also hope there will be a better sense of collegiality among the various departments.”