Twenty minutes into shadowing a labor and delivery nurse, Karolina Kucybala, a first-year medical student, changed into scrubs and stepped into an operating room for the first time.
“It was wild to see a C-section and delivery on only my fourth day of medical school,” said Kucybala.
Her shadowing opportunity, or Focused Clinical Experience, was one of the many activities that the incoming class participated in during the Introduction to the Profession Module, August 12-16. This program, started last year, introduced first-year students to an overview of what they will encounter throughout their medical education and career.
Over the course of a week, students learned about issues in ethics, teamwork, communication, and patient safety and quality, and about personal awareness and self-care. They spent afternoons interviewing patients at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago, and the Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago, and they also shadowed nurses, social workers, chaplains, and patient-care technicians.
“I really loved all the opportunities to meet with patients and listen to their stories,” said incoming student Shelun Tsai. “It was quite eye-opening to be in a room interviewing a patient on the second day of medical school. They not only provided a very different perspective on hospitals and doctors, but also offered valuable advice for aspiring physicians.”
The module, led by Joshua Hauser, MD, assistant professor of medicine, and Catherine Belling, PhD, assistant professor in medical humanities and bioethics, offers these experiences as a way to help cultivate a professional identity.
“It is important for new students to understand the diverse roles of other healthcare professionals,” said Hauser. “Through the shadowing experience, they begin to gain appreciation for their future colleagues. One of the goals of the new curriculum is very early exposure to the lives of patients. This week helps introduce students to the core topics of professionalism and communication skills.”
Before starting Introduction to the Profession, several incoming students had the opportunity to take part in Destination Chicago. The program, organized by second-year medical students, exposes participants to the different communities in Chicago and the health challenges they face.
Twenty students spent three days traveling around the city contributing to community service projects, such as packing lunches at a soup kitchen in the Uptown neighborhood and visiting a community center in Washington Park.
After the program concluded, these first-years joined the rest of the incoming class for Arrival Week. Students met their peers and mentors and mingled with fellow classmates at the Welcome Back BBQ and built teamwork skills at the Breakaway Retreat. The retreat, a one-day event, incorporates leadership development, team building, and personal development activities.
“This introductory week serves as a way for both faculty and students to frame the complex process of going from college student to physician,” said Belling. “This introduction is consistent with the overall integration that characterizes the new curriculum, with its focus not on passing exams but on becoming physicians. It allows students to see in advance the purpose of the incredible range of different things they’ll be doing and learning in the next four years.”
As the week came to an end, the Class of 2017 attended the Feinberg Student-Faculty Dinner, where they got to know many of the professors and administrators that they will be interacting with over the next four years.
Introduction to the Profession culminates with Founders’ Day, which marks the official opening of the academic year. The ceremony concludes with the Class of 2017 receiving their white coats from second-year students, followed by their first recitation of the Declaration of Geneva, or physician’s oath.
“I’m really looking forward to learning clinical skills and basic science over the next four years,” said Tsai. “I want to work hard to learn good physical exam and patient history taking techniques. I also can’t wait to get involved in both the Feinberg and Chicago communities, whether it be through free clinics or medical interest groups.”