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MasterMinds Challenge named best educational innovation

The Master of Medicine at Leiden University Medical Center (LUMC) has won the national biennial award for best educational innovation in medical teaching. It was awarded the prize by the Netherlands Association for Medical Education (NVMO) for its MasterMinds Challenge (MMC).

In the MMC, third-year students on the LUMC’s Master’s programmes in Medicine, Pharmacy and Technical Medicine work together on a real-life problem. The students’ different backgrounds help them gain insight into the problem from different angles and they also learn how to work as an interdisciplinary team. Hospital departments can submit any problems they are experiencing to the MMC’s organisers. The MMC is an integral part of the Master of Medicine curriculum, with some 300 students taking part each year.

Using creativity

Monique van Velzen (Anaesthesiology) and Arnout Jan de Beaufort (programme coordinator for the Master of Medicine) are the initiators of the MMC. The innovation prize is a welcome boost for them. ‘There is a lot of potential in our students. It is important that we give them the space to let their creativity shine in their professional practice. That is exactly what we have in mind with the MMC. It is good to be getting national recognition for this,’ says De Beaufort.

Monique van Velzen & Arnout Jan de Beaufort

The course is structured like a hackathon. After the problem has been introduced, the group of around 50 students are given complete freedom to seek solutions from different disciplines. ‘The Medicine curriculum is fairly fixed, but in this course you’re challenged to come up with an original solution to a problem. This gets you to step outside your comfort zone sooner,’ says Tom van Dasselaar, who has since graduated. He did an MMC last year on implementing ‘stop smoking conversations’ with patients in the Master of Medicine.

We can all learn from one another

The main thing Van Dasselaar learned from the MMC was that everyone has something to offer. ‘We can all learn from one another. Young interns, for example, look at problems in a completely different way from staff who have been working at a department for years. As a result, the MMC comes up with different types of solution. This provides departments with new insights that they may not have thought of at first.’

He gives his own group as an example. ‘During our MMC we sought contact with a psychology lecturer who also gave a course on “stop-smoking conversations”. Psychology students learn the same kinds of conversation technique there. By comparing our perspectives, we were able to learn a lot from each other. We were able to pass these insights on to the department that asked the question.’

Working together on solutions

The MMC is a good learning experience for students, but it is also really worthwhile for departments to submit problems. ‘Many departments simply don’t have the time or manpower to give detailed consideration to a complex problem,’ says Van Velzen. ‘If they submit their problem to the challenge, they suddenly have a think tank of around 50 bright minds at their disposal. That can really make a difference. We therefore call on departments to submit problems to us. These should be healthcare-related, but can be submitted by any department or group within the LUMC and even outside.’

Trainee anaesthesiologist Krista Hoek is one of the LUMC staff members who decided to do just that. ‘Surveys have shown that our patients are very anxious, particularly in the holding area [the waiting room in the operating room complex, ed.]. They also often have to wait a long time on the ward and this time can vary a lot, which can also cause uncertainty,’ she says.

The students therefore thought about how to anticipate patient numbers and how to make the waiting time in the holding room more comfortable. ‘They came up with original ideas about how better to inform patients on the ward about the remaining waiting time. In the context of reducing anxiety, we are now introducing VR goggles and iPads in a research setting in the holding area. Then we can see whether these interventions really do improve patient comfort.’

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