Collaboration putting focus on patient safety

October 8, 2010
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A collaboration of local medical education entities is sponsoring a new class for students in the health professions that emphasizes the role of communication in patient safety.

Grand Valley State University Vice Provost for Health Sciences Jean Nagelkerk said the new curriculum will combine students from different disciplines, instruct them on communications skills, and then take them to Spectrum Health’s Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital to test what they’ve learned in simulated settings.

“One of the major components of problems with patient safety is communication among disciplines,” Nagelkerk said.

The interdisciplinary program will bring together resident doctors, medical students, physician assistant students and undergraduate nursing students in groups of about 30, she said. In addition to GVSU and Spectrum Health, collaborators include the Michigan State University College of Human Medicine and Grand Rapids Medical Education Partners.

The curriculum includes a two-hour lecture about patient safety and communications skills; critiques of communications skills demonstrated in video clips; participation in simulated scenarios related to patient safety at the children’s hospital, which will be taped and critiqued; and a safety rounding experience, in which students check each other for adherence to safety and communications standards.

The pre-recorded videos are being produced at Spectrum Health now, Nagelkerk said.

Dr. Margaret Thompson, community associate dean at the MSU medical school in Grand Rapids, said patient safety and teamwork are being incorporated into the curriculum.

“We’ve been gradually inserting more and more curriculum about patient safety. For example, in our family medicine clerkship, we have a module about safe prescription writing practices,” she said.

As health care evolves in the U.S., medical professionals are being called upon more often to work in teams, Thompson added.

“All these students, when they go out into practice, will be working on teams. Health care is becoming so much more team-oriented, with the patient-centered medical home — that’s all team-based care.”

Learning together will give students a better idea of the scope of their colleagues in the different professions, eventually making health care more efficient, Thompson said.

“The whole safety thing is so important,” she added. “The whole idea of the safety curriculum is to make people feel empowered and be better coaches of each other, and having a more structured way of doing things.”

The new classes are expected to begin in November and move into the new hospital when it opens in January, Nagelkerk added.

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