Background: The current system of residency training focuses on the hospital setting, and resident exposure to the surrounding community is often limited. However, community interaction can play an important role in ambulatory training and in learning systems-based practice, a residency core competency. The goal of the Neighborhood Health Exchange was to develop a community partnership to provide internal medicine residents with an opportunity to interface with community members through a mutually beneficial educational experience.
Methods: Internal medicine residents received training during their ambulatory block and participated in a voluntary field practicum designed to engage community members in discussions about their health. Community members participated in education sessions led by resident volunteers.
Results: Resident volunteers completed a survey on their experiences. All residents stated that the opportunity to lead an exchange was very useful to their overall residency training. Eight exchanges were held with a total of 61 community participants, who completed a 3-question survey following the session. This survey asked about the level of material, the helpfulness of the exchanges, and opportunities for improvement. We received 46 completed surveys from community members: 91% stated that the material was presented "at the right level" and 93% stated that the presentations were somewhat or very helpful. Eighty percent gave positive and encouraging comments about the exchange.
Conclusion: Effective community partnerships involve assessing needs of the stakeholders, anticipating leadership turnover, and adapting the Neighborhood Health Exchange model to different groups. Community outreach can also enhance internal medicine ambulatory training experience, provide residents with patient counseling opportunities, and offer a novel method to enhance resident understanding of systems-based practice, especially within the larger community in which their patients live.