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Hands-on course gives Heritage College students a head start in clinical training

(ATHENS, Ohio — Aug. 29, 2014) When it comes to suturing a cut, performing a spinal tap or filling out an electronic health record, a medical student can learn only so much from reading and observation.

That’s why all physicians-in-training entering their third year at the Ohio University Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine must complete an intensive, hands-on course that engages them in more than a dozen common clinical procedures, from scrubbing for surgery to splinting a limb.

The five-week summer course, known as Osteopathic Clinical Rotation Orientation (OCRO), is designed to bring together everything the students have learned during their first two years, which in turn helps prepare them for their next two years of clinical rotations in hospitals or clinics throughout the state.

For students, the OCRO experience is a confidence builder – a notion that wasn’t lost on Austin Moore, OMS III, on a recent summer afternoon as he searched for a gap in the lower spine of a mannequin so he could insert a needle for a spinal tap.

“I’m so glad I’m learning to do this now rather than later,” said Moore, who was preparing for his clinical rotations. He’s now on rotation at Mercy St. Vincent Medical Center in Toledo. “The wonderful thing about this medical school is that they give you opportunity after opportunity to make your mistakes very early on in the learning process so techniques can be perfected by the time students work with patients.”

Moore had just spent several minutes learning how to don sterile gloves, open an instrument tray and drape a patient’s side for the procedure, all without contaminating anything.

Later in the course, he would take part in a mock operation, learning how to safely move around the operating table and pass sharp instruments to a surgeon. Then there was a session on operating a portable defibrillator.

All the experiences fit into the Heritage College’s overall goal of graduating physicians prepared to practice and succeed in any health care setting.

“Health care professionals at clinical sites consistently comment on the high-level skill set that our students and graduates bring with them,” said Kenneth H. Johnson, D.O., the Heritage College’s executive dean. “Our students arrive in these settings confident about interacting with patients, since they’ve spent many hours in clinical training. Patient-centered care delivery is central to our mission.”

On the Athens campus, much of the students’ clinical training takes place in the college’s state-of-the-art Heritage Clinical Training and Assessment Center in Grosvenor Hall. The facility encompasses 7,500 square feet, including 18 exam rooms, classrooms, skills labs, a patient lounge, locker rooms and a control room for digital recording of student labs and assessment of student performance. The college’s new campus in Dublin has a similar clinical training facility, and students on both campuses spend time during their first and second years honing clinical skills in them.

“OCRO is the grand finale of hands-on patient experiences for our students that begins in the first week of curriculum at the Heritage College,” said Nicole Wadsworth, D.O. (’97), the college’s associate dean for academic affairs. “This course was developed after significant research with administrators in our CORE system to identify what would be most beneficial for students.” The CORE (Centers for Osteopathic Research and Education) is a consortium of more than 20 teaching hospitals in Ohio where Heritage College students complete their clinical training in their third and fourth years.

Much of what students learn during the OCRO experience is how to communicate with a patient, said Pam Henderson, BSN, the Clinical Training and Assessment Center supervisor who has coordinated the course for the Heritage College since 2009. For instance, students interview a pregnant patient to gather information about possible risk factors she might encounter.

“You have to learn to be empathetic,” Henderson said. “But you also have to be concise and get the information you need from the patient.” She added that students have visited her years after taking the course to thank her for the communication skills training.

Back in the spinal tap session, Moore has managed to maneuver a long needle into the mannequin’s reservoir of spinal fluid on his first try – a rarity for students new to the procedure. He notes that the fluid pressure seems high as he fills up four vials in rapid succession.

“I am so grateful that such an emphasis has been placed on perfecting clinical technique at an early time in our medical school career,” Moore said. “I know that I won’t be stumbling through the processes nearly as much when I get to my clinical site.”

  Office of Communication
Ohio University Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine
210 Irvine Hall, Athens, Ohio 45701
Tel: 740-593-2346 FAX: 740-593-0343
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Last updated: 01/28/2016