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Three Days of 'Bootcamp' Whips Interns into Shape

Seventy incoming interns woke up early to start “bootcamp” at 7 a.m. on June 20. But instead of pushups, jumping jacks, and crunches, this group from specialties such as internal medicine, anesthesiology, emergency medicine, and neurology, went through a rigorous three-day physician orientation.

Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and Northwestern Memorial Hospital collaborated to create the bootcamp in 2011 to solve the problem most teaching hospitals face, the “July effect.” This phenomenon occurs every year, when experienced trainees leave at the same time that a group of new trainees enters. The turnover of residents has been known to have an effect on patient outcomes.

“Bootcamp is something very unique to Northwestern Medicine,” said Diane Wayne, MD, vice chair of the Department of Medicine. “The traditional way is for interns to learn on the job, and that may put patients at risk. At Northwestern, we don’t let people practice on patients. We train them in different procedures and skills before they start.”

During the three-day bootcamp, interns go through a series of seminars and tests in areas such as communication with patients, procedures, and medical emergencies using simulation and small group learning.

“I think the experience has been incredible,” said Imo Akpan, MD, internal medicine intern. “Every day we come in and have lectures. We go over things we might encounter. For instance, yesterday we went over medical emergencies and we learned how to do a lumbar puncture on a dummy. It is great to practice before we do it on a real patient. We get a chance to get answers to all the questions we want to ask.”

Colin McCloskey, MD, intern in emergency medicine, completed medical school at Tufts University, and spent Thursday afternoon in the patient safety simulation lab.

“The intern boot camp has been very valuable,” he said. “I think one of the biggest insecurities coming in as an intern is that you actually have to do this stuff. We have all this knowledge, but we’ve never been forced to put it into action in a real patient care setting, where we are absolutely responsible for the outcome. This grounds us and gives us the confidence to go forward.”

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