Table of Contents
Physician Calls Program 'A Real Jewel of a Thing'
Retired physicians share years of knowledge by teaching UT nursing students
Dick Materson, M.D., a friendly, engaging, retired physician who practiced physical medicine and rehabilitation for 36 years, was clearly in his element. During a neurology lab at The University of Texas School of Nursing at Houston, he was showing two students the finer points of detecting a reflex.
“You just have to get him to relax and get his mind off what you’re trying to do. This will happen with some patients,” Materson explained to nursing student Karen Holland.
Materson’s presence was part of a ground-breaking pilot program in which retired physicians were teaching a health assessment lab for first-year baccalaureate nursing students.
The program was the brainstorm of the nursing school’s Dean Patricia Starck, D.S.N., who is also the John P. McGovern Distinguished Professor in Nursing.
“I was having a luncheon meeting with a physician who was teaching in the Medical School, and he made the comment that he wouldn’t mind retiring if he could do something useful,” Starck said. “That gave me an idea. There is a shortage of nursing faculty and I wondered if retired physicians might be interested in teaching nursing students.”
Starck discussed the idea with L. Maximilian Buja, M.D., executive vice president for academic affairs for the UT Health Science Center at Houston. Buja directed her to Shelly Liss, M.D., president of the Retired Physicians Organization of the Harris County Medical Society, who took it to the membership.
Twenty retired physicians volunteered to teach the labs, some for one time, one for as many as six sessions.
“All of these physicians have years of learning and experience and education, and if they don’t find a way to use it, it goes to waste,” Liss said. “You have young nursing students excited to learn and older physicians with lots of experience to relate to them. It’s very heartwarming to see.”
From Starck’s point of view, learning from physicians will help nursing students in a critical area.
“They will be able to learn in their first course how to communicate with physicians, which is important because of those times a nurse has to call a physician in the middle of the night about a patient,” Starck said. “We hope that physicians will teach the students that if they have to make that call in the middle of the night, this is the information they need to have at their fingertips.”
Retired nursing faculty member Gerda Gomez, Ed.D., organized the program. The labs, overseen by Erica Yu, assistant professor of nursing, were tightly scripted with a book and videotape to ensure consistency. After watching the videotape, students paired up and test their skills on each other. Physicians monitored them, answered any questions and checked their paperwork.
Got the Cobwebs Out
“These are the crème de la crème of students,” Materson said. “They’re very bright, very interesting. My colleagues and I all studied before we started teaching the labs. We were a bit anxious, but we got the cobwebs out of our heads. The interesting thing is that it makes these physicians contemplate the role of the nurse. We have a lot of neat tips to impart. It’s not just book learning.”
Before the labs began, the physicians had an orientation session and met with nursing students.
“The physicians have so much wisdom and humor and some of them really enjoyed quizzing us and helping us learn,” said student Holly Millican.
Starck said if the retired physicians and the nursing school are satisfied with the summer course, which ended in June, it may be continued or even expanded to other courses in the fall.
“I think it’s a grand idea – a real jewel of a thing,” Materson said.