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UW Group Helps Prepare Students to Lead Change in Health Care

March 3, 2020

The University of Wyoming College of Health Sciences’ chapter of the Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI@UW) was created to introduce students and faculty members to innovative health system improvements and practices.

With the start of the 2020 spring semester, IHI@UW is focusing on the interprofessional aspects of student learning. Presentations and invited speakers are addressing a broad range of changes and improvements in health care that will affect all students in the health sciences as they prepare to enter their professional careers.

The first of three events featured a presentation by Ivinson Memorial Hospital. Presenters included Shawn Evans, performance excellence adviser; Paula Eskam, process improvement coach; and Colleen Lang, director of quality. Each spoke with students about changes in large-scale health providers such as Ivinson, as well as changes the students can help facilitate once they are working as professional health care providers.

“From your perspective, how is health care changing and will continue to change?” Evans asked students attending the presentation.

A number of students answered “technology -- the way a patient is diagnosed and treated.” Evans noted the accuracy of that answer, pointing out advances in the treatment of cancer and how physicians can now pinpoint a cancer diagnosis within the DNA of human body cells.

Students also responded by pointing out changes in the cost of medical treatment. Over time, some procedures have been fine-tuned and are, therefore, less costly; however, others have included the use of very expensive equipment, vastly increasing the cost of care.

Ivinson’s team also spoke about its use of “lean methodology,” the cornerstone of which is the desire to maximize customer value while minimizing waste. This approach relies on and respects input from all workers in an organization and encourages them to identify quality concerns and to suggest improvements. Evans noted that the implementation of the methodology in Ivinson’s program operations and human resource structure has helped bring about a more productive, resourceful work environment.

To illustrate lean methodology, Lang and Eskam led the students in a sticky dot game, whereby two groups of students competed with each other to be the first to accurately place colored sticky dots on pieces of paper. During the first round of the game, the team members had to follow specific rules, which significantly increased their finish times. Before the start of the second round, students worked together to formulate a better dot-placing process, which resulted in dramatically reduced finish times.

Laramie residents Jake Aadland and Carter Eckhardt serve as student co-presidents for IHI@UW. Both are senior pre-med honors students dual-majoring in molecular biology and physiology. They have found involvement in IHI@UW beneficial not only to their own college experience, but also to other students attending the learning sessions.

“Participating in IHI has been extremely beneficial throughout my collegiate career,” Eckhardt says. “I have learned about numerous controversial health care topics and attained a new understanding for the concerns an individual may face living in a rural region or impoverished setting. Not only are the issues interesting, but this organization also provides a location that fosters discussion and allows one to consider the situation from a different perspective.”

“My involvement with IHI has been key to my development through my undergraduate years,” Aadland says. “This club has brought perspective on many aspects of health care that has opened my eyes and broadened my knowledge of the profession. It has been great to have a group of peers and faculty to discuss the issues we face today.”

Ann Marie Hart, professor and Doctor of Nursing Practice Program director with the Fay W. Whitney School of Nursing, is the faculty adviser for IHI@UW. Hart learned about IHI in 2012, when she took a sabbatical to explore innovative health care practices around the nation.  

“I was impressed by IHI’s commitment to innovation, outcomes, patients and health care workers, as well as its outreach to health care students,” Hart says. “When I returned from my sabbatical, I worked with a group of students to start IHI@UW.” 

The chapter holds monthly meetings to discuss innovative health care practices, as well as two to three interprofessional learning events a year, all of which are open to UW students and faculty members.

IHI@UW is co-sponsoring two additional interprofessional events this spring. On March 24, in conjunction with UW’s WWAMI Medical Education Program students, IHI@UW is co-hosting an event focusing on improving health care outcomes in individuals who have experienced adverse childhood events. On April 8, in conjunction with the Wyoming Center on Aging, IHI@UW is co-hosting an event regarding interprofessional models of care coordination. Both events will be held from 5:30-7:30 p.m. in the Wyoming Union Ballroom.

To learn more about IHI, email ihiuwyo@gmail.com.

Contact Us

Institutional Communications

Bureau of Mines Building, Room 137

Laramie

Laramie, WY 82071

Phone: (307) 766-2929

Email: cbaldwin@uwyo.edu

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