issue Winter 2022

Innovation Spotlight: The Baldwin Institute

By Judy Masterson
Photo by Michael R. Schmidt

The DeWitt C. Baldwin Institute for Interprofessional Education, led by James Carlson, PhD ’12, PA‑C ’01, vice president for interprofessional education and simulation, continues to champion learning, practice and research within a framework of interprofessional collaboration. Dr. Carlson was recently named to the American Medical Association’s 2021–22 Health Systems Science Scholars Program.

HELIX: How has the institute evolved since it opened its doors in 2014?

Dr. Carlson: The Baldwin Institute is a community of people interested in advancing the quality of care in an interprofessional (IP) manner. Great patient outcomes don’t always call direct attention to interprofessionalism, but they reflect that ethic: care provided by a team of professionals who work toward a common goal and value each member’s unique expertise and contributions. We do a lot of faculty and student development around interprofessionalism and in support of university infrastructure, like the Gross Anatomy Lab, simulation and other technologies we rely on to help train our different professions.

How has the pandemic continued to shape the work of the institute?

We’ve learned that we can do education effectively through the Zoom medium, but also that students in the health professions, especially at the skills-based level, need to learn as much as possible in person — but in a hybrid model that recognizes some of their learning and actual practice will be online. We’re harvesting some of the lessons from the past two years to advance interprofessional education (IPE). One of the great barriers to IPE in the clinical sciences is getting everybody in the same place at the same time, because that’s just not the way practice is generally done. We’re exploring what IPE and collaborative practice look like using a tele-delivery or a hybrid medium; for instance, consulting with the pharmacist or physical therapist. We’re continuing to support telemedicine initiatives and advancing that as an interprofessional concept, and also using simulation to emulate telemedicine.

How are new technologies and tools changing the way we educate?

We continue to be quite innovative in trying to improve diagnostic accuracy and reducing the causes of error, such as overconfidence bias. Scientific literature on the subject suggests that 80% of reported diagnostic mistakes are caused by cognitive errors: faulty knowledge, data gathering or synthesis, leading to overconfidence, anchoring (reliance on one trait or piece of information) and/or premature closure. Our research under a grant from the Coverys Community Healthcare Foundation demonstrated that whether you’re a novice or an emerging clinician, the use of technologies to aid the diagnostic process can help avoid bias and stereotyping around decision-making — resulting in fewer mistakes. We showed that there is a role for these tools and instruction in a foundational education. We’re also ramping up some of our virtual tools, like the Full Code case player, which helps students practice clinical decision-making. We’re using a lot more mixed modalities to engage students in deep learning: a variety of Zoom-based simulations with live people on the screen; live flesh-and-blood human simulation — standardized patients, and mannequin-based simulations and virtual patients — all coming together in some very creative ways. We’re going to continue that model in some areas when getting together in person is either not feasible or necessary for optimal learning.

Dr. Carlson demonstrates a mannequin operation to an RFU staff member in a simulation bay on campus.

Technology is also changing instruction in gross anatomy, right?

Yes. We’re evolving our anatomy programming to be more relevant to current practice. We’re moving away from spending countless hours dissecting the entire human body. People may say, “But I was trained that way.” The implication is that the next generation has to be trained that way. Well, maybe not. When I was training, there was no robust point-of-care ultrasound. But now I can use a portable tool connected to my smartphone or tablet to image the heart, abdomen or any other region of the body right at the patient’s bedside. If I know what I’m looking at, it can help me provide better care for my patient. Maybe that’s the way we should be training anatomy. We need to train those skills and others and to continue to move our curriculum in that direction. We are setting ourselves up to be curricular leaders in the use of cutting-edge technology around diagnosis, treatment and interventions.

Interprofessional education and collaborative practice (IPEC), a crucial element of RFU’s mission and vision, was pioneered by Dr. DeWitt Baldwin, the institute’s namesake. How is it changing the healthcare landscape?

Behind IPEC is a community of people using their unique knowledge and working in teams to improve the quality of care, reduce the costs of care and increase the satisfaction of patients and providers. It’s a model of shared responsibility and respect for each other’s roles and expertise. It continues to grow and change attitudes and systems as new generations of healthcare professionals trained in that approach enter practice and leadership roles.

Some of what you learn today may be less relevant even just four to five years from now. You will need to train in the use of new tools and technology throughout your career.

What kind of health professionals, ultimately, are we educating?

I continue to stress adaptability, an attitude of lifelong learning, and an understanding that the pace of technological change is going to escalate over time. Some of what you learn today may be less relevant even just four to five years from now. You will need to train in the use of new tools and technology throughout your career. We’re engaged in that work now at our Center for Advanced Simulation in Healthcare. For example, nursing offers healthcare providers an exemplary model of hands-on learning and refreshing throughout the career through skills- and scenario-based simulation. There is definitely a role in professional development for helping clinicians stay current and relevant with the latest technologies and the latest guidelines in a very active way, because it all changes so quickly. Our partnership with Northwestern Medicine on our new College of Nursing poses a huge opportunity to improve health in our region, especially through innovations around behavioral health, because there is such a continued and growing need for that specialized care. Our psychiatric nurse practitioner program is going to be important to advancing IP care around behavioral health — not just for nursing, but within medicine, within physician assistant practice and psychology. We will be focusing very intently on that curriculum.

Judy Masterson is a staff writer with RFU’s Division of Marketing and Brand Management.