By Rachel Kon
To expose medical students to longitudinal care of chronic illness patients and have a context to mentor students’ professional identity formation, the UVA School of Medicine launched a new required longitudinal course called the Patient Student Partnership (PSP). Piloted by Dr. Peggy Plews-Ogan in the Phronesis Project prior to being expanded last year to the whole class, the PSP program instills the mindset of physicians as health advocates from the beginning of their training as they help their patients navigate the health care system. Patients are recruited who are excited to teach medical students what it is like to live with chronic illness and how they would like doctors to communicate with them. Together a mutually beneficial student doctor-patient relationship can develop and give the student context for the pre-clinical science knowledge they are learning. As the students’ clinical skills develop, they will be able to contribute more to the health care team and learn about multi-disciplinary care necessary to care for chronic illness patients. The students are mentored in the relationship building with the patient by their Foundations of Clinical Medicine (FCM) faculty coach.
The PSP program has been fortunate to partner with many UVA clinical sites, including many in the department of medicine, to recruit patients that will shape our future doctors. UMA, UPC, Heart, and Vascular clinic, Nephrology and transplant nephrology clinics, Ryan White HIV clinic, JABA Geriatrics, GI/Hepatology, Pediatric Endocrinology, Pediatrics Birdsong clinic, Pulmonary clinics, Rheumatology clinic, PCC and Crossroads Family Medicine have all been sharing their patients with our students. Through these clinics the students meet the pharmacists, social workers, dieticians, and nursing teams that support our patients. The students have been able to practice skills they learn such as medical interviewing, motivational interviewing, and medication reconciliation with their PSP patient rather than only in role plays and with actors. In the first year, students go on home visits and get to see how complex managing chronic illness can be. The PSP program has been highlighted in several UVA publications as both patients and students are finding great value in the program.
The Patient Student Partnership course is directed by Rachel Kon, MD. We are very fortunate to have a full-time coordinator, Colleen Kiernan, who reaches out to patients, explains the program, enrolls them, sends them regular updates, and troubleshoots communication issues with the students and patients.