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White House Commends Retired Physician Organization
Program allows retired physicians to share wealth of experience with nursing students
The Harris County Retired Physician Organization was recently honored for an innovative volunteer program with The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston School of Nursing that pairs retired physicians with nursing students.
President George W. Bush recently commended both institutions for a collaboration that places retired physicians inside first-year labs as volunteer instructors. The nation is suffering a nursing shortage, and the key problem is lack of an adequate number of teachers. The retired physicians are filling a gap and helping the school produce more nurses. The physicians are involved in teaching the students how to do a complete physical examination. The Retired Physician Organization (RPO) also recently received recognition from Houston Mayor Bill White.
Part of the nursing school curriculum requires students to work with computerized mannequins in simulated illness conditions. The physicians help in these simulations, participating in the scenario where a patient's condition changes and the students must decide what to do. This helps the students think critically about how to handle crisis situations.
The collaboration was the idea of Patricia Starck, D.S.N, dean of the School of Nursing, and Shelly Liss, M.D., president of the RPO. In partnering with the organization, Starck saw a way to tackle two issues: address the shortage of quality nursing faculty and capitalize on the collective knowledge of retired physicians eager to keep a foot in the health care industry.
When the program launched last year, about 24 retired physicians were on board. Now there are more than 30.
"We are the fortunate recipients of the generous spirits of the retired physicians who want to share their wisdom and experience with these future generations of caregivers," Starck said.
The plan for the partnership was inspired by a conversation Starck had in 2007 with a physician, Michael Speer, M.D. who suggested that many retired doctors wanted a way to remain involved in the medical field.
Starck saw an immediate opportunity to educate nursing students.
Liss said he was happy the program had received high accolades.
"We're very pleased to get those certificates. Not only do they recognize what we've done, but we're hoping that it will popularize our program and our model and maybe others will simulate it at other nursing schools and medical centers," Liss said. "The benefits of this to nursing students are enormous. You have clinically experienced physicians who can tell you, ‘This is what the book says to do, but in addition here are my experiences that may be helpful as well."
By Andrew Guy Jr., Institutional Advancement
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