First-year medical students and third-semester nursing students from ECU's Quality Improvement Olympics hold their protected raw egg that will be dropped from a stepladder. The protection was created during a timed teamwork exercise. Team members, from left, are Skyler Cauley, Isaiah Dunnaville, Jennifer Okpala, Dan-Thanh Nguyen, Staci Allgood, Sam Olsen. (Photos by Gretchen Baugh)

Events mark Brody’s progress in reshaping medical education

Feb. 3, 2015

By Amy Ellis
ECU News Services

When East Carolina University’s Brody School of Medicine was awarded a $1 million grant by the American Medical Association in 2013 to help shape how future doctors are trained, AMA leaders cited the school’s reputation for bold innovation.

That spirit of innovation was the guest of honor at two recent grant-related events: a faculty-driven Quality Improvement Symposium and a Quality Improvement Olympics involving nursing and medical students.

The Quality Improvement Symposium, held at the East Carolina Heart Institute at ECU on Jan. 21, showcased 25 projects by faculty members across the health sciences. All are inaugural fellows in Brody’s Teachers of Quality Academy (TQA) who spent the past year pioneering ways to better meet the demands of a changing health care delivery system.
At the TQA Quality Symposium are, from left, Dr. Chelley Alexander, chair of the Department of Family Medicine; Dr. Patricia Crane, associate dean for research and creative activities, College of Nursing; Dr. Sylvia Brown, dean of the College of Nursing; Dr. Pamela Reis, assistant professor, College of Nursing.

“Health systems today need every physician to be an expert in patient safety, quality improvement and systems-based practice, “ said Dr. Elizabeth Baxley, senior associate dean for academic affairs at Brody. “At the same time, every physician is required to embody the highest values of professionalism and be equipped to thrive in an environment of inter-professional, team-based care.”

Baxley said that’s why Brody established the academy shortly after being named one of only 11 medical schools to receive the five-year REACH (Redesigning Education to Accelerate Change in Healthcare) grant.

“Clinical teachers today face complex challenges not encountered by their predecessors,” she said. “They have to teach, while simultaneously delivering care in expanded inter-professional teams, while simultaneously learning about redesigning clinical delivery systems.

“This 18-month faculty development program is designed to ‘teach the teachers,’ to equip them with the skills they’ll need to practice and teach a new curriculum more focused on issues like patient safety, quality improvement and team-based care,” she said.

Poster and presentation topics at the symposium ranged from reducing clinical no-show rates to accelerating collaboration between medical and nursing students.

“This energetic, passionate, creative group of TQA fellows has been so inspiring,” Baxley said, “and they have already made major impacts, in just 12 months, in the way we provide patient care and educate future physicians.”

The academy has produced 20 new curricular components and student experiences that are already being infused into medical, allied health and nursing education across ECU, Baxley said.

One example is the Quality Improvement Olympics held Jan. 23 at Brody. The event, organized by the College of Nursing’s Dr. Gina Woody and Dr. Luan Lawson, assistant dean for curriculum, assessment and clinical academic affairs at Brody, involved about 80 first-year medical students, 116 third-semester nursing students and more than 130 raw eggs.

Organizers divided the students into groups of six, with a mixture of nursing and medical students in each group. At each table was an assortment of packing peanuts, straws, plastic bags, sponges, rubber bands, gauze and newspaper.

Using these materials, each group was asked to construct an egg “vehicle” that would protect their egg as it was dropped from the top of a stepladder. Along with egg “safety,” timeliness and cost-effectiveness were factored in to determine each team’s success.

Lawson said the purpose of the activity was to introduce nursing and medical students to the concepts of patient safety and quality improvement through experiential learning in inter-professional teams. She said it allowed students to apply their knowledge to a game-based activity before transferring the experience to a clinical scenario.

“Well-functioning teams are necessary to improve patient care and health,” she said. “We want our graduates to have the skills and confidence to transform our healthcare system and work collaboratively to serve our patients and their families.”

Medical student Taras Grinchak was on a team whose egg was unscathed by the drop. “If we hadn’t worked as a team with our individual contributions, we wouldn’t have been able to complete the task in five minutes,” he said.

“Focusing on each other’s strengths and assigning specific roles to each person is what enabled us to get this outcome.”

Nursing student Alexandra Simkus agreed. “We learned the importance of working together as a team; everyone’s input was valuable,” she said.

When one team’s egg did not survive the drop, organizers commended the students for their creativity and risk-taking – attributes that landed Brody the REACH grant in the first place.