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AACOM’s Clinical Education Transformation Workgroup Is Advancing the Way Clinical Education Is Taught

The COVID-19 pandemic has led to many disruptions across the medical education landscape and, arguably, the biggest changes have been felt in clinical education. Personal protective equipment shortages and pandemic safety guidelines have led to many schools having to rapidly adapt the way in which their third- and fourth-year students participate in clinical settings.

In response to these changes, AACOM’s Clinical Education Transformation workgroup is assessing innovative approaches in which innovations in technology and procedures can adequately prepare students with the clinical experience they require.

Initially called the Clinical Education Alternatives workgroup, the team’s first focus was to assess how the nation’s colleges of osteopathic medicine (COMs) were approaching their clinical training in the midst of the pandemic. 

After surveying the osteopathic medical education community to learn how various schools have learned to adapt, the workgroup provided a series of recommendations to the Commission on Osteopathic College Accreditation, along with resources that colleges were using to supplement their clinical education. 

After providing initial recommendations, the workgroup focused their attention on the core specialties and rotations that students must follow (e.g., family medicine, internal medicine, pediatrics), and elective rotations such as public health. The group broke up into two smaller task forces to make recommendations on how the clinical requirements for each could be fulfilled.

“This is significant because, in a traditional setting, students would interact with patients in-person during rotations," Alegneta Long, AACOM's Executive Director, AOGME & Director of GME Initiatives, said. “The two working groups got to work to try to put together a framework, looking for solutions. We started to ask, ‘What are the assessments, and what are the standards? What can go virtual, and what cannot?’ ”

The workgroup prepared two white papers for AACOM’s Board of Deans that recommend how best to approach the challenges inherent in both core and elective clinical rotation settings.

Currently, the group is focusing on long-term initiatives that can be used as guidelines for the nation’s COMs.

“Now that COVID-19 has exposed us to some of the innovations that are possible in clinical education, we’ve learned that integrating some virtual components can be of great benefit,” Long said. “We also learned how to better remediate potential deficiencies in clinical training, and that there’s still much more to explore.”

The group plans to:

  1. Provide a set of common learning objectives that can be adopted for core rotations such as family medicine, internal medicine, pediatrics, surgery and more.
  2. Develop a recommended set of procedures and competencies, building assessments around them that align with entrustable professional activities to help fourth-year students fully prepare for residency.
  3. Continue collaboration with AACOM’s Council on Residency Placement and Assembly of Osteopathic Graduate Medical Educators to produce more material on the transition to residency. Some materials have already been made public on AACOM’s website. Other materials include a series of videos that provide detailed tips and suggestions for how students can prepare for residency.

Once these steps have been made, the group will continue to focus on ways to spur innovations in clinical education and will look into lessons learned and ways to help COMs and students address gaps in training due to the COVID-19 pandemic disruptions.