Innovative training programs receive seed money

5 December 2014

Have you ever wondered how your pharmacist is trained to give that flu shot? Or how the nurse practitioner, physician assistant or nurse knows exactly how to diagnose that peculiar pain you’re experiencing? The answer is practice – lots and lots of practice. And that practice is about to become more rigorous, more intensive, and also more engaging for students from across the health sciences. A team of researchers and faculty at Bloomberg Nursing have secured two grants from the Instructional Technology Innovation Fund (ITIF), a seed fund designed to catalyze initiatives that immediately and directly impact education and teaching program at U of T through innovation and development.

Fareed Teja, the Academic Information and Communication Technologist at Bloomberg Nursing, has played a key role in developing both proposals. “Each year, the ITIF selects a theme – this year was ‘large classes,’” Teja explains. “My role is to help identify potential projects in the Faculty that coincide with the theme, and support those projects through proposal development, and if accepted, support the projects through to completion.”

Bloomberg Nursing Lecturer, Erica Cambly, led a team that proposes the development of a student-directed interactive e-Learning module that students will use to learn how to administer substances by injection. The proposed module will be used in skills-based courses in Nursing, the Leslie L. Dan Faculty of Pharmacy, and the Physician Assistant Program in the Faculty of Medicine. “This is really an innovative module,” Cambly states. “Not only will it be used directly in course work, but the module will also be available to students throughout their education to review as needed. This is particularly valuable to students in pharmacy – they learn injection skills in the second year of their program, but do not administer injections until after graduation.” ITIF funding is integral to the success of this project. “Developing such modules requires substantial resources and significant time from both faculty subject experts, as well as IT resources,” Teja says. “We can now hire a student to assist in some of the development, and open the door for institutional collaborations that may springboard more opportunities in the future.”

Professor Monica Parry has also received ITIF funding to develop a series of virtual interactive cases to be used in the Master of Nursing-Nurse Practitioner Program. “Virtual case scenarios are crucial in the education of health care professionals,” Parry states. “These cases will expose students to a variety of medical conditions and lifestyles including unemployment, differing health services, social exclusion, poor housing conditions, and food insecurity”.  In Year 1 of the project, 5 base cases will be developed, focusing on exposure to the top diagnoses in primary carry defined by the World Health Organization and the Lancet Commission: heart failure, diabetes, breast and prostate cancers, and pulmonary disease. In Year 2, 45 derivative cases will be developed from the initial five, providing 50 virtual “patients” for Nurse Practitioner students to work with. “In the previous academic year, we piloted a virtual interactive case on chest pain in the pathophysiology courses of the NP Program,” says Teja. “Now we are in a position to hire a work-study student to assist with the development of 50 new cases, to purchase the necessary software on which the cases are built, and work with content experts to ensure that these new cases are well-rounded, and incorporate a number of factors NPs will encounter in the field.” The cases developed in this project will be developed with input from a variety of health science experts from the Dalla Lana School of Public Health, Pharmacy, and Medicine. “We’ll really be able to collaborate with community partners and foster interdisciplinary relationships in the health sciences,” Teja finishes.  “These projects will have direct impact on the education of our health science students.”

“Bloomberg Nursing and U of T are committed to the development of cutting edge advances in education in the health sciences,” says Linda Johnston, Bloomberg Nursing Dean. “We are proud to be advancing hands-on skills training for nurses and other health science students.” So remember, the next time you’re seeing your pharmacist or your nurse practitioner, that it was hours spent in self-directed learning modules that gave them the skills to deliver a painless flu shot, or to determine whether that peculiar pain you’re feeling is a cardiac event or just indigestion.