UAB has developed a new plan to improve the education of medical students and residents that capitalizes on “teachable moments.”

Julie Walsh-Covarrubias, left, and Alice Goepfert, right, are the investigators for a program called CERT — Creating Effective Resident Teachers Program. It is a multidisciplinary grant project intended to ensure that all resident physicians are prepared to better teach fellow residents and medical students.

The Creating Effective Resident Teachers program (CERT) will provide residents with instructional strategies that will help them to integrate their teaching responsibilities into their patient-care activities. The multidisciplinary program is funded with a two-year grant awarded by the University of Alabama Health Services Foundation General Endowment Fund Education Initiative.

“Residents need to be prepared for their role of educator and evaluator,” says Alice Goepfert, M.D., associate professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology and principal investigator for the grant. “Residents will always be teaching, whether it is educating students or their patients. We think this program will help them be better educators and physicians.”

Everybody benefits, investigators say.

During patient visits, residents are able to capitalize on teachable moments – those times when they can provide constructive feedback and demonstrate to students how to deal with difficult situations. Such interactions improve the residents’ knowledge and the interpersonal communication, professional and leadership skills needed throughout their careers.

Residents also are closer to the medical students’ learning experience and better able to understand and respond to particular needs, from providing positive feedback to discerning difficulties managing stress and anxiety.

“Residents are first-line educators to medical students,” Goepfert says. “Anything we can do to improve the residents’ performance as educators will make a tremendous difference in the education of a student.”

The training will begin this summer, says co-principal investigator Julie Walsh-Covarrubias, Ed.D., the associate director of education in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology who developed the Web-based modules for the program. “Once we develop the curriculum we hope that it will continue to grow and be implemented into other departments in the School of Medicine.”

Program goals
The program, in collaboration with the Department of Medicine and the Department of Surgery, has five specific goals:
• Develop and improve residents’ teaching techniques.
• Build a cadre of faculty and select residents or “scholars” who will be CERT instructors.
• Create a well-developed, proven curriculum that can be emulated in other departments.
• Develop a concise, comprehensive volume of online modules of various clinical teaching methodologies that will assist scholars’ extended and self-directed learning.
• Build a reputation for excellence in teaching as a distinguishing characteristic of the residency programs.