Walk the WalkEach summer, about 140 interns arrive on the MCV Campus to begin training in their chosen specialty.

This year, the newly minted M.D.s hail from 61 different medical schools. They bring with them certain core competencies along with experiences and expectations that are based on what they’ve learned at more than five dozen medical centers.

Mary Alice O’Donnell, Ph.D., is associate dean of the medical school’s Graduate Medical Education office. She wants to be certain the interns know what’s expected of them at the VCU Medical Center.

To help them make the transition, she and her colleagues created the Walk the Walk orientation program five years ago. It differs from orientation programs at other medical centers where newly arrived interns are often trained in specialty specific programs. Instead, O’Donnell elected to train the new arrivals in interdisciplinary teams.

“That’s how patient care is delivered today — with physicians representing different disciplines working alongside nurses, therapists and pharmacists to care for patients,” she explains.

Simulation is a big part of the program with each of this year’s 139 interns taking part in one of five patient care scenarios. Standardized patients portrayed various ailments, from cystic fibrosis, to a GI perforation or a cardiac issue.

Walk the WalkThe experience challenged not just the interns’ clinical and diagnostic skills, but also their ability to communicate with the patient and work as part of a larger health care team. After each interaction, interns received feedback from their faculty advisor and teammates as well as from the standardized patient.

Over the course of the two-day orientation, interns also participated in case-based discussions and debates in multi-disciplinary small groups. Along the way, they became familiar with their responsibilities related to professionalism and informed consent as well as consultation and functioning as part of a team of health care providers.

O’Donnell frequently hears from the interns that the program helped them envision what their first day in the hospital would be like. “They tell me ‘My first day won’t be as scary now.’”