Students revive HSC’s IHI Open School Chapter

Ihi StudentsThree students at The University of North Texas Health Science Center at Fort Worth have revived the university’s Institute for Healthcare Improvement Open School Chapter. The student-run organization lost steam during the lockdown era of the pandemic but is now back and up to 36 members.

School of Public Health student, Linda Wolff, and Texas College of Osteopathic Medicine students Daniel Phu and Garrett Wallace led the charge to resurrect the organization after the trio connected through SaferCare Texas, the patient safety-focused department of HSC that oversees the group.

All three were on separate but parallel missions to find an organization on campus that allows students from different disciplines to interprofessionally learn from each other.

“As future clinicians, we have a responsibility to provide quality health care for our patients,” Phu said. “We also have a responsibility to make sure the health care system is accessible and equitable, easy to navigate and safe for our patients. These tasks require diverse teams that match the complexity of the health care system and address its challenges from many angles and perspectives.

“The IHI student chapter aims to maintain conversation on these important topics as well as provide opportunities for students from all HSC programs to collaborate on innovative projects and initiatives,” he continued.

An IHI Open School Chapter is a face-to-face group of students who work together to learn and apply skills in quality, safety and leadership. The shared goal of the group is to improve health and health care safety. Every IHI Open School Chapter is unique. Academic chapters are led by students and residents representing a variety of health professional programs at a university.

“Creating solutions for a healthier community, IHI Open School Fort Worth Chapter’s purpose is to advance the next generation of health professionals’ understanding and commitment to patient safety and health care improvement,” said Bobbie Bratton, clinical executive of SaferCare Texas, who also advises the group. “Building upon the firm foundation of health education provided by HSC, IHI Open School Fort Worth, led by SaferCare Texas, synergizes education and experience to enhance the potential impact of our providers of the future.”

Rebuilding the IHI Open School Chapter

After clearing the bureaucratic hurdles of creating the local IHI chapter — reviewing bylaws, updating the chapter’s mission, etc. — Phu, Wallace and Wolff created a five-member board that guides the organization. All three serve on it.

“We initially thought that coordinating multiple school schedules would be a challenge, but having different schedules helped us because if one of us was busy studying for an exam or writing a paper, another leader was available to take charge,” Wallace said. “Our leadership-by-committee approach, which avoided traditional leadership titles (president, secretary, etc.), allowed us to step in and fulfill any role necessary while avoiding conflict about specific responsibilities. The future of our organization should benefit in the same way.”

Early on, the trio said, their goals were to raise awareness of the group, host events and engage with other chapters around the country. HSC’s version is the only one in North Texas.

During a recent welcome event for members and potential members, the group hosted a panel discussion featuring students who participate in research on campus; explored leadership, research and volunteer opportunities through the organization; and previewed the future of IHI Open School Fort Worth Chapter.

“I have big dreams for this chapter,” Wolff said. “Our focus is to build a strong foundation for future students passionate about creating an equitable health system for all people. Long-term, we hope the organization serves as a facilitator to build strong interprofessional relationships across the HSC campus to increase the number of culturally sensitive health professionals entering the health care system. By creating a shared space for exchanging ideas, passions and skills, we hope students leave campus excited about changing the future of healthcare.

“The IHI values align with the values here at HSC — creating a high potential for rapid growth as each new year brings new students,” she continued. “We hope our organization’s impact will surpass the confines of our institution, touching the lives of patients in and beyond the DFW community.”

A new chapter, a new focus

One of the goals of the students was to establish the IHI chapter with a primary focus on interprofessional collaboration. The current board is multi-disciplinary, representing TCOM, School of Public Health and School of Health Professions.

“Health care is inherently interdisciplinary,” Wallace said. “During each encounter with the medical system, a patient will interact with various professionals, each with a unique perspective and expertise. Safe, high-quality patient care depends on those professionals’ ability to communicate about the situation and collaborate on a plan.

“Our executive team recognizes this and wants to allow students to practice their team building and collaboration skills before they enter the hospital or clinic,” he continued.

“At its core, we hope that our organization will be solution focused. We started the organization as a solution to a perceived gap in student-led interprofessional activity. Creating innovative solutions requires input from different perspectives, which is why we designed the organization to represent multiple schools. If the future of our organization chooses to focus on solving problems, they will benefit from having diverse perspectives.”

The next chance for students to get involved in HSC’s IHI Open School Chapter is on Tuesday, March 21. The group will host a panel discussion on student roles in health care improvement and the practical application of a Certified Professional in Patient Safety certification. The window to apply to be an officer is from March 6 to 31.

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