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PA leadership in the Institute for Healthcare Improvement

Are you a PA student who enjoys systems analysis and has an eye for how to make improvements? Do you like using research to evaluate models and make necessary adjustments? Do you care about patients and have a desire to make their healthcare experience the best it can be? Then perhaps you should consider being involved the Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI) Open School Chapter at Wake Forest School of Medicine.

IHI is an independent nonprofit organization founded in the 1980s by national healthcare leaders with a mission to improve healthcare worldwide. IHI activities are guided by the belief that every system is perfectly designed to get the results it produces, and while our healthcare system saves millions of lives daily, it can always be improved. In 2008, IHI started the Open School as a platform from which students can advance healthcare improvement and patient safety competencies. There are currently 678 Open School Chapters in 68 countries, involving students in medicine, nursing, pharmacy, public health, health administration, dentistry, and other allied health professionals. At Wake Forest, the Open School Chapter is comprised of medical and physician assistant students who collaborate to improve health care within the Winston-Salem community. The Chapter is advised by Dr. Kathryn Callahan and meets once a month to discuss projects and attend guest lectures. 

In the past year, three PA students at Wake began collaborating with IHI. John Ramos, president of the IHI Open School Chapter at Wake, along with classmates Kelly Young and Brittany Donaldson, are using IHI curriculum and strategies to bring improved safety measures to clinical laboratory procedures within PA Studies. A needle stick incident occurred this past year when a sharp was placed incorrectly into a full sharps box, and months of safety precaution bloodwork and paperwork ensued for the person who ethically reported the incident. Ramos, Young, and Donaldson saw a system that could be studied and tweaked not only for the greater good of faculty and students at Wake but also for the safety of patients to be served in the future. As a measure of quality improvement, they posted signs on the sharps box to help students better understand proper disposal procedures, collected data on sharps container contents, and observed for changes in contents after the signs were posted. In the past, IHI has also collaborated with DEAC (the Delivering Equal Access to Care clinic) to improve patient flow in the clinic, implement mandatory foot exams during appointments for patients with diabetes, and develop creative ways to help patients remember to bring their medications to their appointments.

IHI needs more PA involvement. After all, the PA profession was designed to bring in reinforcements to bolster healthcare teams weary from the burdens of issues that could be improved if only they were properly addressed. Ramos describes, “My favorite aspect of medicine is that everyone is always striving to improve something – it could be a patient’s life, a diagnostic test, a physical exam technique, or rates of treatment failure. IHI reflects this desire for improvement by giving leaders tools for a scientific approach to improving healthcare.” IHI is a great opportunity for PA students who are interested in administrative health or healthcare improvement research to collaborate with physicians and medical students to better the healthcare system. For more information on how to get involved, contact John Ramos, PA-S2, [written by Jana Villanueva, Class of 2016]



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PA Studies

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Last Updated: 06-01-2015
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