Telemedicine. Virtual learning experiences. Remediation gaps. Born out of the pandemic, these innovations present opportunities for a medical education community currently faced with obstacles.
“As medical programs navigate forward, they're examining trainee and physician readiness, how training processes have evolved throughout the pandemic, and burnout – for the individual, within health systems, and across the industry – and the impact on patient care,” says Meggi Lensman, MBA, Undergraduate Medical Education (UME) Consultant, MedHub.
Lensman and her counterparts work with senior leadership in Graduate Medical Education (GME) and UME institutions to develop innovative solutions that transform processes and reduce administrative burden so educators can spend more time supporting their students or residents in training.
Throughout the pandemic, Lensman says students and faculty have had to adapt to sharing residents as educators, shortened teaching and learning timelines, continual changes to complex information.
Medical students had to be on the floor before they were ready, and they were scared.
"Some never had the chance to process situations," Lensman says. Students used to experience their first loss of a patient in residency, but now she's seeing it earlier in medical school. "They've never had the true process or training to resolve those issues, which may add challenges in residency."
And students aren't the only ones feeling overburdened. Lensman says they're seeing burnout in faculty, too, as pandemic fatigue is compounded with increased responsibility in training growing numbers of students.
Thomas J. Nasca, president and chief executive officer of the ACGME, says residency applications have increased over the past three years, and growth is predicted to continue at roughly 44%.
"We're asking medical schools and faculties to increase numbers with fewer faculty and clinical experiences," Lensman says. Burnout is leading to early retirement, causing faculty shortages and challenges with a multitude of layers.
Where student-to-teacher ratios used to be one student for five faculty, programs now need to place 10 students to one faculty. Programs are struggling to find places for students, making consistency of clinical experiences a growing concern.
Telemedicine and other solutions: Here to stay?
Lensman says the solution may be in trends learned from the pandemic, such as virtual curriculum and clinical experiences.
"In seeing patients in real life, you'll have faculty from an institution observing the interaction and providing feedback to the student through cameras in the room," Lensman says.
Other creative solutions like remediation curricula, certifying Entrustable Professional Activities in preparation for residency, and senior readiness capstone projects may become permanent as programs adapt. However, they’ll also likely require faculty development, as will the transition to competency-based education.
Establishing, managing, standardizing, and building compliance around virtual experiences needs to be addressed. Many institutional leaders have found efficiencies through technology that automates processes and improves data accessibility, like MedHub.
“In my experience technology should always be behind the scenes of a program…automatic, seamless, efficient," Says Lensman.
On-demand, interactive tools will also be crucial to programs with staff shortages looking to minimize burden on leaders and faculty. Resources like MedHub's learning portal and development trainings present a more efficient, scalable solution.
Creating standards and consistency in an everchanging field
Collaboration among professional associations has been helpful to establish standards, but must continue. Lensman says the American Telemedicine Association and The Coalition for Physician Accountability have both been critical in guiding the field through changes.
Lensman encourages programs to partner with forward-thinking collaborators, technology or consulting vendors, and professional associations to relieve challenges and advance medical education.
By leaning on experts who specialize in optimizing administrative processes, or managing accreditation, educators and institutional leaders can put their time back toward their students.
Creating clarity and consistency within institutions
Technology transforms institutions by automating and streamlining processes and improving oversight for faculty to deeply understand their students and residents. But it takes more than a fancy software platform. Success also requires expert guidance and support, which is what MedHub provides.
"By committing to the success of each institution, and the industry as a whole, MedHub takes both a platform and people-led approach to partnership. We optimize administration by channeling our expertise. We help leaders adapt and evolve with medicine and education," Lensman says. "We are not just a vendor. We are a partner in education.”
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