This spring, the office of student activities launched Project Kindness Connecting with Patients, a new initiative, established jointly with Weiler Hospital, a division of Montefiore Medical Center, Einstein’s University Hospital. Framed specifically around patient visitation, the program is designed to offer medical students a new way to engage with elderly inpatients.
“Project Kindness is meant to provide students the opportunity to broaden their perspective of the patient experience,” said Dr. Nadine T. Katz, medical director at Einstein campus and vice president of Montefiore Medical Center. “They are with patients simply to connect with them, without the white coats they typically wear when on the wards as part of their general curriculum. Students interact with patients in a different way than if they were taking a medical history or checking on things from a medical vantage point.”
The inspiration for the initiative stemmed from a conversation that Dr. Katz had with Joan Junger, director of the office of student activities, who interacts with students at every stage of their medical school experience. The two shared ideas and observations.
“I noticed that as they progress through their four years, the realities of the medical business often conflict with the idealism that led them to choose medicine as a career,” said Ms. Junger. “Students face hard questions, such as patients asking if they’re going to die, or difficult situations like family members coming to terms with an unwanted diagnosis. They often feel helpless since they’re still learning how to take care of patients.”
She continued, “Through Project Kindness, students’ main purpose will be to improve a patient’s experience at the hospital while working on their own interpersonal skills by getting to know patients from a non-medical standpoint.”
At the launch event for Project Kindness, nearly 75 students representing all four classes gathered along Einstein’s “Main Street,” the main hallway in the Forchheimer building, where they enjoyed the a cappella singing of the Lymph Notes, an Einstein musical group. Student affairs provided iPads so interested students could sign up. These students have since taken part in a requisite training session led by Dr. Katz, which offered an overview of Project Kindness and outlined how the initiative can help them in establishing healthy doctor-patient relationships.
While Project Kindness will officially launch in August, those who already have been through training have begun making visits and are seeing results. “It’s easy to get caught up in studying patients’ symptoms in an objective, clinical way while losing sight of the human side of medicine” said Stephanie Gampel, a first-year student who is among those who have begun visiting patients. “My experience with Project Kindness has allowed me to connect with patients on a deeper level. I’m getting to know patients as people, and doing so complements the experiences I’ve had in the clinic, where more business-like, ten-minute interviews are the norm.”
In September, additional monthly trainings, or Lunch & Learns, will be offered to new volunteers. Interested students should contact the student activities office.
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