With the ongoing testing and imminent release of the IHI Open School Quality Improvement Practicum, many schools around the world are hard at work on quality improvement projects. One of the biggest challenges has been getting collaboration between all schools – medical, nursing, public health – on campus. Imagine trying to do it between two universities. That’s the challenge facing the IHI Open School Atlanta Chapter and here’s how they are making it work:
Let’s learn a bit about your Chapter first. The IHI Open School Atlanta Chapter comprises students from two universities: Emory University and Georgia Institute of Technology. How did these schools combine into one Chapter?
Georgia Tech's Health Systems Institute (HSI) was established in 2005 as a multi-institutional, interdisciplinary initiative based at Georgia Tech and Emory University. Students taking classes in this program learned about the IHI and much of the work it has done previously. Meanwhile, some professors at Emory were also introducing IHI to students in health care quality classes. David Cowan, Program Director at HSI, had already been participating in IHI events about the time that nursing students at Emory pursued an IHI Open School Chapter in 2009. It made sense to collaborate between the two schools, given the shared interest and history of collaboration between students and faculty at these programs. Students decided to name the group The IHI Open School Atlanta Chapter, which currently includes members from Emory's School of Medicine, School of Public Health, and School of Nursing as well as members from Georgia Tech's HSI.
Tell us about the work your Chapter has done to provide opportunities to students to practice quality improvement and patient safety. Why do you think this is important?
Becky Ng, our Director of Projects, has been working to identify hospital leaders who are excited to teach students how to pursue quality improvement in health care. The goal is to identify students who want to pursue this in their future careers and give them an opportunity to learn the fundamentals now, rather than later. The board feels that the IHI Open School courses are great at teaching concepts, but we also feel that hands-on experience is important. I remember one speaker at the National Forum had a slide that said "To learn QI, you must do QI." Contributing to a project brings lessons to life, and knowing that your work made a project possible is a very powerful feeling. Our vision is that any student who wants to learn and help in the hospital should be able to do so. Many of us had wished for earlier opportunities to be involved with projects, so we are working to make this opportunity available for future students.
Students have busy schedules and not all students can contribute the same amount of time to projects as others. How has your Chapter, which is split between two schools, addressed this and what program was developed as a result?
We've decided to categorize opportunities into two categories based on student interest. "Exposure" projects require less invested time and are designed to help students identify whether or not this is a field of interest. One such project has students receiving a day of training before visiting operating rooms and observing adherence to the WHO safe surgery checklist for a few hours at a time. The hospital gets data, and students get an opportunity to see a dimension of healthcare that they might not otherwise have seen.
"Immersion" projects require additional time for training, and the payoff is increased mentorship and a better understanding of the project. Ideally each student finds a project that they are interested in and takes something away, which could be a highlighted story at a job interview, a poster or publication, or even the skill set to teach others at their next job.
What other projects does your Chapter have planned for this year?
Our two big audacious goals for the spring and summer are to ensure completion of these quality improvement projects and to develop an interdisciplinary training curriculum for students from the Schools of Nursing, Public Health, and Medicine. Darya Khalili, our Director of Learning, has been outlining a curriculum that involves lectures, case discussion, and simulation between students from these different schools.
Using IHI resources as a foundation and following curricula of other schools that have pursued similar efforts, we hope to create an elective that allows students to truly engage in interdisciplinary learning. In the future, they may even be able to pursue QI projects in the hospital for school credit. So far, we've been encouraged by the responses from the administration and we'll keep you all posted!