Creating a Quality Improvement Course for Undergraduate Medical Education: Practice What You Teach

Acad Med. 2018 Oct;93(10):1491-1496. doi: 10.1097/ACM.0000000000002253.


Problem: More than half of U.S. medical schools have implemented curricula addressing quality improvement (QI); however, the evidence on which pedagogical methods are most effective is limited.

Approach: As of January 2015, students at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine are required to take a QI course consisting of three 1-month-long (4 hours per week) blocks during their third or fourth year, in which student-identified faculty sponsors are paired with highly trained QI professionals from Vanderbilt University Medical Center. The three blocks of the course include didactic instruction using Institute for Healthcare Improvement Open School modules, readings, weekly assignments, and experiential learning activities (i.e., students develop and implement a QI project with two Plan-Do-Study-Act cycles using a systematic approach that employs the principles of improvement science, which they present as a poster on the last day of the third block).

Outcomes: From January 2015 to January 2017, 132 students completed all three blocks, resulting in 110 completed QI projects. On evaluations (distributed after each completed block), a majority of students rated the clinical relevance of the blocks highly (191/273; 70%), agreed the blocks contributed to their development as physicians (192/273; 70%), and reported the blocks motivated them to continue to learn more about QI (168/273; 62%).

Next steps: The authors have applied QI methods to improve the course and will aim to assess the sustainability of the course by tracking clinical outcomes related to the projects and students' ongoing involvement in QI after graduation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Curriculum*
  • Education, Medical, Undergraduate / organization & administration*
  • Humans
  • Quality Improvement*
  • Schools, Medical
  • Tennessee