The roles, needs, and responsibilities of different members of a medical team are diverse. The types and forms of continuing medical education that suits them must, therefore, be varied as well. Where some clinicians are able to travel to attend large global conferences to network and attend meetings, other prefer to engage in local events or through online learning. Understanding and appreciating the various roles that different team members play and the way this predisposes their approach to medical education can make us better able to provide effective, appropriate resources for the whole team.
Here we discuss the various roles of team members and stakeholders and how different forms of medical education impact them.
The clinical physician’s overall role is to deliver treatments to his patients with the best possible outcome. Behind the scenes, he is innovative and efficient, and strives to stay abreast of the latest information on available treatments.
The faculty-level physician’s job is to advance the field. She needs to be current in the literature, discerning about what she brings in as a thought leader, and insightful in analyzing studies. She is also responsible for finding funding for projects and perhaps for her organization, so she must be resourceful and mindful of grant and funding opportunities.
Medical professionals such as physician assistants, therapists, and nurses, who often have more patient contact than the others, play more of a “boots-on-the-ground” role on the team. They work together with doctors to deliver treatments to patients with the best possible outcome. However, their schedules may be less flexible and their time more constrained since they are frequently more patient-facing.
The scientist conducts research that may create techniques or test new devices, with the end goal of improving patient outcomes and prolonging and improving life. He is concerned with funding for research and operates mostly in the academic setting. He will rely upon education on new technologies and data-driven research to move his field forward.
The grantor or commercial supporter works at a pharmaceutical company. She wants to raise awareness of new developments and clinical trials. She is project-focused and will assess which projects will make the best use of her organization’s funds.
The patient advocate is primarily focused on the needs and well-being of the patient. He may represent specific individuals or groups of people, and will be interested in learning more about the topics and research that impact the group for which he advocates.
The pharmacist needs up-to-date information on the best prescription pharmaceuticals and product information, as well as knowledge of side effect management and drug interactions that can make prescribing and treating a patient more complex.
The patient is also part of the team and needs reliable, unbiased education, as well. The content should be specific and focused on the disease or diagnosis, bearing in mind that he may not have a medical or science background.
A discussion paper written by the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies lays out the medical team approach to medicine. They cite the Interprofessional Education Collaborative as a part of a major US effort to establish interprofessional education in the medical field and improve team-based medicine in general. This perspective on continuing medical education reinforces the professional’s knowledge in their role and educates them on how the other team members contribute. A deeper understanding here improves communication and cohesiveness within the team, which can only benefit the patient under its care.
Education that fits
While learning about others’ roles is important, it is paramount for each professional on the medical team to receive continuing education that matches their needs, availability, and schedule.
Thought leaders and senior professionals who shape the trends in the field, such as faculty, physicians, scientists, and pharmacists, often look for opportunities to attend conferences, network, and exchange ideas. They want to ensure they are not only learning about the latest findings in the field, but have opportunities to influence the broader conversations on relevant topics and issues.
The “boots-on-the-ground” team members, including nurses and patient advocates, need topics that are current and applicable to the patients they see on a regular basis. Their educational resources should be flexible, with options to view and interact with online courses on their own schedule.
Grantors may be more interested in funding and project-based topics. While they may be interested in traveling to conferences, they will likely also need flexible online resources that can be shared with their broader organization, as well as show impact.
Gone are the days of the soloist doctor. Team-based medicine is here to stay, which is a positive development for patients everywhere. With continuing education that keeps pace with this trend, it can only get better from here.