When is an hour only 50 minutes?

This blog post is part of the series of periodic updates from UGME committees.

Have you looked at your teaching or learning schedule recently? You know those hour-long and two-hour long blocks? They’re a bit misleading.

We’ll admit it, we’re part of the problem since we routinely talk about hour-long and two-hour-long classes. The reality, however, is that our class blocks are really divided into 50 minutes for class and 10 minutes for a break. If you’re teaching a two-hour block, that first 10-minute break can be a little flexible about where it lands, but for finish times, it’s vital to stick to the end at 20 minutes past the hour rule.50min_icon_cyan-01

What are those 10 minutes for? That’s actually time for the next instructor to get set up, so they’re ready to start on time. Time for folks to grab a coffee or hit the washroom – or check their Facebook or email. It’s also the 10 minute traveling time from room to room. This hasn’t always been much of an issue for our medical students, but it’s more important than ever as we cope with the classroom disruptions because of the flood in the Medical Building in August.  Often, our students are now moving between farther-flung campus buildings for back-to-back classes – those 10 minutes are golden.

If you’re concerned about how to plan your lecture or SGL or other learning event with timing in mind, get in touch with the Educational Development team. We’re happy to help with plotting out sufficient flexibility so you can finish on time without missing out on essential instruction. (Email Theresa Suart at theresa.suart@queensu.ca)

Integrated Threads

The Curriculum Committee recently approved the TLIC proposal to map a series of “Integrated Threads” through the UGME curriculum. Integrated Threads represent important domains of learning for medical students that span multiple courses, terms and academic years.  These may represent disciplines (e.g. genetics, geriatrics, imaging, pathology), competencies (e.g. communication, leadership) or other defined groupings (e.g. patient safety, diversity) which contribute to the attainment of the skillset of a graduating physician.

queen's tartan fabricThe aim in mapping Integrated Threads is to clearly articulate where particular topics occur and re-occur through our curriculum. It will help guide both learners and instructors in expectations and achieving learning objectives. Some integrated threads have an “anchor” unit within a course with other related material taught elsewhere throughout the curriculum (for example: Genetics). Others don’t have an identified unit, but are taught in relation to other material throughout the four-year UG program (for example: Imaging).

The inaugural Integrated Threads list – also approved by the Curriculum Committee –  includes 28 distinct topics.  Over the next academic year, TLIC will be working with faculty and the Education team to map existing curricula and identify opportunities for enhanced teaching of each topic. The Integrated Threads list will be reviewed on an annual basis.

The TLIC will keep you posted as the Threads are identified and mapped. Faculty who would like to suggest additions to the Integrated Threads list should contact the TLIC Chair, Dr. Lindsay Davidson (lindsay.davidson@queensu.ca) or the Educational Development team.

 

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Medical Student Research Showcase

By Dr. Heather Murray and Dr. Melanie Walker
Scholar Competency Team

Queen’s School of Medicine is proud to host the 4th Annual Medical Student Research Showcase on September 22, 2015. This event offers opportunities for medical students engaged in extra-curricular research activities to showcase their work in posters displayed in the School of Medicine Building. These posters will be displayed all day during the 22nd, and students will be standing at their posters and discussing their work from 10:30 until noon in the David Walker Atrium of the School of Medicine Building.

It is also an opportunity to celebrate excellence in the form of an oral plenary session, which will feature the top 3 student projects as selected by a panel of faculty judges.

Showcase 3This year’s faculty judges include:

  • Dr. Anne Ellis
  • Dr. Rob Brison
  • Dr. Tanveer Towheed
  • Dr. Paula James
  • Dr. Jennifer Fleming
  • Dr. Gordon Boyd

We are very grateful to have these experienced researchers evaluating our oral plenary applicants. Showcase 2

The three students selected by the faculty judges to present at the oral plenary beginning at noon will each receive an Albert Clark Award for Medical Student Research Excellence. Their names and project titles, along with their faculty supervisors, are listed below in alphabetical order:

  1. Steven Alexander Hanna: Extended sensory blockade using a hydrogel combined with bupivacaine. Supervisor: Dr. Gregory H. Borschel
  2. Sophie Palmer: A cross-sectional survey of reproductive-aged women’s willingness to participate in medication or vaccine research trials during pregnancy. Supervisors: Dr. Robert Reid & Dr. Graeme N. Smith
  3. J. Connor Wells: Repurposing off-patent drugs in the treatment of cancer: the ongoing story of disulfiram. Supervisor: Dr. Stephen Robbins

We look forward to seeing you in the School of Medicine Building on September 22nd to celebrate the outstanding research achievements of our students.


Check back here on Tuesday afternoon for updates and pictures from the event!


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Dr. Melanie Walker, Dr. Heather Murray, Steven Hanna, Sophie Palmer, J. Connor Wells, and Dr. Albert Clark following the Showcase Plenary on Tuesday.

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A tale of two sports, a 7-year-old, and how we train doctors

By Michelle Gibson, MD, MEd, CCFP

Director, Year 1
Director, Student Assessment

Fall is a time of transition in many ways. In the land of Undergraduate Medical Education, our 4th year students are facing up to the joys and pains of the CaRMS process, our 3rd year students are anxiously and excitedly contemplating starting clerkship, our 2nd year students are returning to class as experienced students, and we have a whole new crop of 1st year students arriving to engage our curriculum.

In my main job (co-parent to a 7-year-old), it’s the time of year when soccer finishes, and skating starts up (and, of course, the fun and perils of Grade 2 must be addressed).

In the land of 7-year-old sport, as skating is about to start, there is a certain dread that I once again have to bundle up on a beautiful fall day to stand in a cold arena listening to (at times) dreadful music that we know will be played over and over all year long.   The 7-year-old adores skating, though, and looks forward to each new ribbon or badge, and a report card outlining the skills he has acquired over the year. These are proudly displayed in his room. He jumps at every opportunity to skate, including in the middle of a heat wave in August.

While the outdoor soccer venue is generally much nicer for parents (except when we get to encounter Kingston’s weather extremes), it is, for me, fraught with frustration about how my child is supposed to learn soccer, which is a universe away from the approach in skating.

This year, I vowed I would try to be analytical about the differences (versus getting frustrated and emotional, which is the natural parenting reaction), so as to help my kiddo, who really, really likes soccer, but who gets upset because he can’t play as well as he would like, and can’t figure out why.  kids' soccer

In soccer, the theory seems to be that if you find someone who knows how to play soccer, and they volunteer to show kids how to play, kids will learn—even if the much-appreciated volunteer has been given no guidance about how to teach the eager young Padawan. In practical terms, in our experience, this has meant having the kids do drills for 30 minutes, and then having the kids play a game. Somewhere in there, they are supposed to learn soccer. The skills are simple, right? You just run, and kick the ball. How hard can that be?

I have been to about 90% of the practices & games, and I have only rarely seen the kids being shown how to do something. My child has never been taught how to approach a game, even at a very basic level, except that he knows the point is to get goals. He knows that he should pass the ball and he generally understands why this is a good idea, but since he can’t quite figure out how to get the ball passed to him, this is not very helpful at present.

The boy can kick a ball, of course, and he improves a bit yearly, but no one has shown him how to control the ball at soccer practice. Fortunately for us, he loves soccer, and despite all of this, he plays with enthusiasm but not much skill. Other kids have real skills—possibly because their parents were actually taught how to play soccer, so they teach them, or, because they had different coaches over the years.  As the boy ages, he gets more and more aware of the skills differential, and doubt is starting to creep in.

Contrast this to skating. From the first day of his first skating class (with the same child:coach ratio), he was taught HOW to skate, by a certified coach. There was a nice clear list of skills he needed to master before moving up a level. In pre-skate, one key skill is getting up from the ice. (I like that one in particular.) Having moved up to the “real” skating lessons, he works on different skills at three different stations at each lesson. As he masters the skills in any one station, he will get a ribbon, and move up a level.

My child responds to this, and so, having also been born with reasonably good balance, he has moved up the levels quickly, often skating with older kids. Some skating Lessons2skill sets are harder for him, so he might be working on level 5 in ‘agility’ but only level 3 in ‘control’. Anytime he struggles with a skill and he can’t work it out himself, a coach will spend a few minutes watching him and then working with him on the skill. Each group has a teenaged program assistant who also helps show the kids how to do the skills. The report card we get each term has this all laid out for us, and we as parents can help him to know what skills he should work on (spirals, anyone?) to complete his current level.

The parallels to medical education are obvious to me. My medical education, and my clerkship in particular, was much very similar to the soccer approach: here’s some basic info, now go out there with practicing physicians, who have likely never learned how to teach, and, well, absorb it all and figure it out.  If you found a resident, or other clerk, or a nurse who could show you how to do something, or who would explain why something was being done, it was a golden day.  I don’t think this was very different than what most clerks of my era experienced.

Now, I will admit I learned a lot, and, I dare say, I was a good clerk—most of the time. My friends and I banded together, and taught one another. We passed on tips as one of us exited a rotation and the other one started. I definitely remember those days of not knowing what to do, being told to do it, and then not knowing why or how to do it. It wasn’t pretty. Some rotations were worse than others.

Skating lessons are much more in line with competency-based education. Our medical students crave clear directions, and clear instructions. The expectations are high but achievable, if they are clear, and feedback is provided. For some students, it’s easier (but never easy), and they are fortunate, and still deserve good teaching, assessment and feedback so they can improve. Other students really benefit from more explicit descriptions of what is expected, and feedback about what they need to do to meet these expectations. In my experience, most students welcome clear, high, but achievable expectations, in a supported environment. Learning medicine will never be easy, but we should not make things harder by just dropping them into an environment and hoping they figure out how to get the clerkship ball, so to speak.  A few minutes of direct observation can help me determine where a student is struggling, and I can provide feedback—something I am (mostly) comfortable with, having benefited from many hours of faculty development and good mentors.

As we enter fall, the boy’s soccer medal has joined his collection, and he is anxiously awaiting the beginning of skating in a few weeks. I am not looking forward to the hours in the cold rink, but I know my frustration level will be significantly decreased. I’ll be ready and happily working with all the students in our curriculum, but I’ll work hard to ensure that our new clerks, in particular, do not feel like a somewhat lost soccer player in the middle of a field, knowing they want to be there, but not actually knowing where the ball has gone.

Welcome to clerkship, #QMed2017. I look forward to seeing you on the wards, and remember to have fun!

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Put your own oxygen mask on first: Helping medical students develop good self-care habits

By Janet Roloson, M.Ed., Chartered Psychologist

When you are on an airplane, you may have noticed how the flight attendant instructs you to put your own oxygen mask on first before assisting others. This is important because if you run out of oxygen, you cannot help others with their oxygen masks – or with anything else. The same general principle applies to self-care in any context. Research suggests that good habits of self-care may begin to suffer in medical school; the pace and pressure of work can “push” self-care off to the side of a medical student’s priority list. In the longer term, the self-care habits medical students employ can also influence their performance as physicians. Taking good care of oneself is a central foundation for being able to provide good care to one’s patients (Ball & Bax, 2002).

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Janet Roloson

If you are feeling as though you are treading water in medical school, you are not alone. Virtually all students will experience significant stress and pressure during their time in medical school; in some cases, this can develop into anxiety or depressive symptoms. This can interfere with a student’s ability to function effectively, and may prevent them from achieving at their full potential.

My name is Janet Roloson and I am the designated counsellor for The School of Medicine. My office is located with Health, Counselling, and Disability Services (HCDS) in the LaSalle Building on the second floor.

I am employed to offer counselling to medical students and residents; my affiliation is with HCDS. As such, services are offered at an arm’s length from the School of Medicine for the purposes of maintaining anonymity and confidentiality.

I am an experienced psychologist and I offer a range of services. These include evidence-based approaches for treating anxiety disorders, depression, and other diagnosable mental health issues; I also see many students who may not have a mental health problem, but who are experiencing difficulties/stresses which disrupt their functioning. Counselling may also be conducted in combination with psychotropic medications, prescribed by your physician. Students may also be referred to a physician or psychiatrist (in HCDS) if they are wishing to explore this possibility.

It is important to highlight that therapy is not exclusive to those with a mental health problem. If you are working to develop good habits and maintain healthy self-care strategies I’d be happy to see you to help with this process. As we all know, preventative measures are important to both overall physical and mental health. It is not necessary to wait on problems because they are not “big enough” or because “others need counselling more than me.” Dealing with smaller issues may assist in the prevention of more firmly-established and undesirable habits, plus anyone can benefit from counselling.

Some common examples of areas in which students may benefit from receiving further support include: procrastination, increasing motivation, perfectionism, establishing healthy boundaries, family issues, self compassion, dealing constructively with difficult feedback, disordered eating, grief, sexual identity, and relationship issues. Sessions are client-driven and one session may be all that is needed.

If you wish to schedule an appointment, contact Counselling Services at 613.533.6000 ext. 78264 or counselling.services@queensu.ca and request an appointment with Janet. Therapy is available free of charge. Hours of availability are M, W, F 10:00 am-3:30 pm & T, Th 11:00 am-7:00 pm. Lunch appointments are also available from 12:30-1:30. Additionally, sessions are also available virtually or via phone for those who are unable to attend sessions in person. One initial face to face session is often preferable prior to scheduling these alternatives. For those who may prefer a self-help approach, the following self-help workbooks are free and accessible online: http://www.queensu.ca/hcds/workbook.php.

Good2Talk is another resource that is available 24/7/365 at 1.866.925.5454 or good2talk.ca. It is a toll free number funded through the provincial government that offers free, professional, and confidential support.

Ball S, Bax A. Self-care in Medical Education: Effectiveness of Health-habits Interventions for First-year Medical Students. Acad Med 2002; 77: 911-7.

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