Historic New Training Partnership Between UH Manoa Medicine and Nursing

The first-ever, joint training of UH Manoa nursing and medical students was a distinct hit with students.

Comments during a talk-story session included a nursing student saying she learned, “Doctors are people, too, not just super-human robots who know everything!” A medical student then explained that MD students sometimes feel intimidated around nurses.

“There’s different levels of knowledge,” said the MD student. “There’s going to be certain things we know the nurses won’t know, and things the nurses know that we don’t,” he said. “We will benefit from taking turns, covering for each other and teaching each other to have an improved understanding that will help the patient.“

The new joint curriculum between the John A. Burns School of Medicine (JABSOM) and the School of Nursing & Dental Hygiene emphasizes that both doctors and nurses need to ‘speak the same language’ to better care for their patients. The entire first year class of 66 medical students and 56 brand-new nursing students gathered for a half-day session on interprofessional communication, led by a JABSOM physician/educator and a nursing professor.

Held at JABSOM’s Kaka’ako campus, the September 2 session was the first of a series of planned educational activities to bring the students of both schools together. 

“These students are in their first semester of health care professions study at UH Manoa, and the intent is to have them learn each others roles at the beginning of their careers to bring an interdisciplinary approach to patient care,” said Stephanie Marshall, the nursing school’s Director of Community Partnerships.

The Institute of Medicine has estimated that the number of annual deaths in hospitals due to medical errors or “preventable adverse events” exceed the number of deaths attributable to motor vehicle accidents (43,458), breast cancer (42,297) or AIDS (16,516), according to JABSOM’s Dr. Damon Sakai, Director of the Office of Medical Education. “Many medical errors begin with poor communication. This is supported by research analyzing the chain of events that occur when mistakes are made,” he added.

The partnership between the nursing and medical schools is one concrete way to reduce the potential for deadly errors, said UH Manoa Chancellor Dr. Virginia Hinshaw.

“I strive as Chancellor to fulfill our university’s goal of serving as a multi-cultural global experience in a Hawaiian place of learning,” Hinshaw said. “No programs better epitomize this ideal than the John A. Burns School of Medicine and our School of Nursing and Dental Hygiene. I can see in your faces our multi-cultural society – our mission is to provide you with training and community service programs that expose you to a multitude of international experiences, so that we produce physicians and nurses who are equipped and devoted to improving the health and well-being of Hawai‘i and the Pacific.

Mahalo to all of you for dedicating yourselves to careers in health care,” Hinshaw told the students. “No other field more directly impacts the well-being of our families and loved ones in Hawai’i and beyond – and nothing would make me prouder than to place my own future welfare in the care of outstanding health professionals like you,” she said.

Story and photo by Tina Shelton. Pictured: Nursing and MD students in a small-group “breakout” session on communication.