Jeffrey Barsuk, ’99 MD, ’02 GME, ’10 MS, professor of Medicine in the Division of Hospital Medicine and of Medical Education, was recently awarded the 2017 Excellence in Research Award from the Society of Hospital Medicine.
The society’s annual Awards of Excellence honor hospitalists who exemplify hospital medicine best practices in areas such as teaching, teamwork, research and clinical excellence. Barsuk was recognized for his decade-long research into optimizing clinical performance, using simulation technology within a mastery learning theoretical framework. Barsuk and his team have published more than 60 peer-reviewed research articles on this topic, and his research program continues to expand.
What are your research interests?
My research interests are in medical simulation and patient safety — exploring how we can use simulation and medical education to improve the care our patients receive.
What is the ultimate goal of your research?
To improve healthcare provider skills and patient care and safety, while reducing the cost of healthcare.
What do you enjoy most about the work that you do?
I get the chance to help more people than I would if I were only practicing medicine in the hospital. I also get the opportunity to help other healthcare professionals succeed.
How does your research advance medical education and knowledge?
Our team uses simulation-based mastery learning (medical simulation combined with mastery learning and deliberate practice) to educate healthcare providers. Mastery learning is an extreme form of competency-based learning where all trainees must meet or exceed a minimum passing standard on an assessment before they complete training. This minimum passing standard is set high to ensure that healthcare providers are properly trained to safely care for patients. Trainees who are unable to meet or exceed the minimum passing standard participate in more deliberate practice until they can be reassessed and reach the standard. All training sessions use the concept of deliberate practice which involves repetitive, focused practice with an expert instructor. Using deliberate practice, learners form new mental representations and constantly improve their skills.
Most health profession schools use pass/fail grading, which is based on a normal distribution of performance. Using a normal distribution, some individuals pass assessments despite performance that is not acceptable for safe patient care. Our research shows that simulation-based mastery learning improves healthcare providers’ skills and patient care, while reducing patient complications and healthcare costs. Simulation-based mastery learning ensures “excellence for all.”
How is your research funded?
I have received funding from the Baum Foundation, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute of Nursing Research, and Medical Error Reduction and Certification, Inc.
Who inspires you?
Professional athletes, dancers, musicians, etc. Those that put in countless hours a day and use deliberate practice to become outstanding at what they do.
Who are your mentors?
I would like to thank my mentors, Diane B. Wayne, ‘ 91 MD, William McGaghie, ’73 PhD, Joe Feinglass, PhD, and Mark Williams, MD, who taught me how to frame a research question, design studies, collect and analyze data, and write effectively. They kept me focused and driven to strive for excellence. Without them, I could have never received this prestigious award.
Read more about innovative medical education research conducted by Barsuk and his colleagues at Feinberg in Northwestern Medicine Magazine.