By Jeffery D. Fritz, Sandra Pfister, Diane Wilke-Zemanovic, Sally Twining and Jose Franco.
Can we incorporate into the curriculum a quick and easy way to promote awareness and the practice of wellness by both medical school faculty and students? At the start of the fall 2017 term, course directors overseeing first- and second-year pre-clinical instruction at the Medical College of Wisconsin encouraged each faculty member to develop a simple communication slide. These instructors were asked to include an introductory slide noting their practices of wellness to be shown at some point in their instructional block. The exact content of this slide was not prescribed; however, all participants were encouraged to include images and personalize the content to the degree that they felt comfortable. Given the magnitude of this initiative – it would involve over 300 different faculty members and reach over 500 first and second year students across three campus locations – it was hoped that voluntary participation by faculty would be sufficient to would significantly enhance student and faculty awareness and practice of wellness/wellbeing.
Faculty participation across the 13 pre-clinical first and second year courses was surveyed throughout the academic year by reviewing the recorded sessions for inclusion of the introductory wellness content at any time during the session. Overall, the faculty in first-year courses participated to a greater extent than their second-year counterparts, and spring courses had higher participation levels than the fall (see table). We were pleased with the participation rates in this voluntary program. An additional favorable and unexpected result was that we observed students introducing themselves in this same manner during presentations to their peers. Numerous positive student comments related to the wellness slides appeared on end-of-course evaluations. This simple initiative reinforced the importance of both faculty and peer role models in the medical education process.
After an academic year of including these materials in the first- and second-year pre-clinical instructional sessions, we have learned some lessons. The inclusion of an introductory wellness slide is easy to accomplish, well received by faculty and learners, and promotes a culture valuing the wellness of both groups. We have also learned that this style of introduction should be encouraged outside of the classroom, such as in learning communities, small group discussion or clinical meetings. These introductions provide a comfortable, relaxed format to increase educator/learner engagement. We discovered that students were excited to share with faculty their personal wellness stories and activities. Student feedback also noted that we, as faculty, may need to be a little more reflective in this practice and discuss not only our current wellness practices but also those that helped us when we ourselves were students. These introductions have re-enforced the role of faculty and peer mentoring to change attitudes and practices of wellbeing throughout our institution.
Jeff Fritz, PhD is Assistant Professor of Basic Sciences in the Department of Cell Biology, Neurobiology and Anatomy at the Medical College of Wisconsin-Central Wisconsin. The project described above was developed with his colleagues Sandra Pfister, Diane Wilke-Zemanovic, Sally Twining and Jose Franco through the Kern Institute for the Transformation of Medical Education, Medical College of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, WI.