Can first-year medical students acquire quality improvement knowledge prior to substantial clinical exposure? A mixed-methods evaluation of a pre-clerkship curriculum that uses education as the context for learning
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BACKGROUND: Quality Improvement (QI) training for health professionals is essential to strengthen health systems. However, QI training during medical school is constrained by students' lack of contextual understanding of the health system and an already saturated medical curriculum. The Program for Improvement in Medical Education (PRIME), an extracurricular offered at the Michael G. DeGroote School of Medicineat McMaster University (Hamilton, Canada), addresses these obstacles by having first-year medical students engage in QI by identifying opportunities for improvement within their own education. METHODS: A sequential explanatory mixed-methods approach, which combines insights derived from quantitative instruments and qualitative interview methods, was used to examine the impact of PRIME on first-year medical students and the use of QI in the context of education. RESULTS: The study reveals that participation in PRIME increases both knowledge of, and comfort with, fundamental QI concepts, even when applied to clinical scenarios. Participants felt that education provided a meaningful context to learn QI at this stage of their training, and were motivated to participate in future QI projects to drive real-world improvements in the health system. CONCLUSIONS: Early exposure to QI principles that uses medical education as the context may be an effective intervention to foster QI competencies at an early stage and ultimately promote engagement in clinical QI. Moreover, PRIME also provides a mechanism to drive improvements in medical education. Future research is warranted to better understand the impact of education as a context for later engagement in clinical QI applications as well as the potential for QI methods to be translated directly into education.