NOXEN — Identifying a heart murmur for the first time in her medical career, second-year medical student Brianna Shinn, of Clarks Summit, experienced first-hand the value of an early mentoring program between The Commonwealth Medical College and local medical practices.
The Continuity Mentor program with TCMC offers students a unique opportunity to develop a learning relationship with area doctors and patients. The integrated learning atmosphere helps to reinforce what the student is learning academically with supervised hands-on experience.
The in-field training only occurs once a week during a three-week period known as Community Weeks for first- and second-year students. The students shadow the physicians — learning how to interview the patients and identify any history of family health issues — and begin to perform the initial exam.
Third-year students continue the program but add the responsibility of figuring out the symptoms of the patient to develop a plan of action. By their fourth year, students will be expected to present a plan of treatment to their mentors.
Shinn and classmate Stephanie Veit, of Chesterfield, Mo., spent Tuesday at the Monroe-Noxen Health Center, a primary care facility in Noxen, with Dr. Krista Civiletti and Dr. Gwen Galasso.
The Continuity Mentor program covers 16 counties which are broken up into regions: South Regional Campus Clinical Faculty, covering the Wilkes-Barre area; North Regional Campus Clinical Faculty, covering the Scranton area; and the West Regional Campus Clinical Faculty, covering the Williamsport area.
The Monroe-Noxen Health Care Center is in the South Campus coverage area. Anne Green, director of marketing and public relations for The Commonwealth Medical College, said there are 265 clinical staff members in the South Campus.
Wearing the standard white physician’s jackets, Veit and Shinn visited with incoming patients.
“I love this office because you see a variety of things,” Shinn said.
Shinn’s excitement of recognizing a heart murmur comes after just finishing a cardiology and pulmonology unit in class.
“We just finished cardiology and pulmonology,” she said. “We had a patient today with COPD and just being able to listen and understand what I was hearing was great.”
Normally medical students do not see patients until their third year, Civiletti said. The program allows students early in their education to be exposed to working with patients.
“When you see it in front of you, it helps to solidify what you were learning in class,” Civiletti said. “Sometimes you have so much information coming at you in class, that when you see it in a patient, it reinforces it.”
Learning to diagnose ailments and physical problems is just one component of the experience for students. Learning bedside manner and how to maintain a good working relationship with other professionals in the office as well as the patients is another.
“It is good to see how a physician’s office works and how doctors work with nurses and how they interact with their patients,” Veit said. “They think outside of, ‘Oh you’re here for you COPD.’ They ask, ‘How is your wife? Your family?”
Galasso said the program helps students develop compassion and empathy for their patients early on.
The benefits of this type of program reach beyond experience for students. Civiletti said in an rural area like Noxen, many residents are under-served in regards to medical care. Both Galasso and Civiletti hope by building relationships between students and patients, that the medical students will be more likely to stay in the area.
For more information on the Continuity Mentor program, visit http://www.thecommonwealthmedical.com/.