Monday, August 6, 2012 [updated Tuesday, October 23, 2012]

Bastyr Launches New Integrated, Patient-Centered Naturopathic Medicine Curriculum

The hands-on model integrates basic sciences with clinical training earlier to help students form a real-world understanding of the skills they’re learning.

Team care visit at Bastyr Center for Natural Health.
Team care visit at Bastyr Center for Natural Health.

Bastyr University’s world-renowned Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine program is about to get even better with the implementation of an integrated, patient-centered curriculum this fall at both our Kenmore campus and Bastyr University California.

Jane Guiltinan, ND“This new curriculum delivery model will help our students begin to think like physicians from day one of the program,” says Jane Guiltinan, ND, dean of the School of Naturopathic Medicine.

Naturopathic medicine (ND) students starting in summer quarter have already been introduced to the new program, which gives them clinical experience observing patients in the first year of their program.

“Already the students seem pretty excited about it,” says Lynelle Golden, PhD, chair of the Department of Basic Sciences and incoming dean of the School of Natural Health Arts and Sciences. “The program focuses on providing more learning and less lecture time.”

The new program has five main objectives:

  1. To provide integration across scientific disciplines and between basic and clinical sciences.
  2. To introduce appropriate clinical reasoning and competencies beginning in the first week.
  3. To remove unnecessary redundancies and add any concepts/competencies that were deficient in the traditional curriculum.
  4. To focus on concepts and competencies that support clinical practice with less emphasis on factual recall.
  5. To organize courses to use class time to engage students in an active learning process, and wherever possible, to reduce the number of classroom hours by using appropriate technology.

An Integrated Approach to Learning

Beginning in fall quarter of their first year, students will observe patients at our two teaching clinics: Bastyr Center for Natural Health in Seattle and Bastyr University Clinic in San Diego. Dr. Guiltinan says this experience will allow students to bring patient stories and real clinical issues back to the classroom to provide a real-world understanding of the science they’re learning.

“This will help them solidify the link between basic sciences and their clinical experience,” she says.

Lynelle Golden, PhDStudents will also learn a new approach to basic sciences through clinical science labs that integrate modalities previously taught individually. For instance, disciplines such as anatomy and physiology will be combined with clinical training to help students think more like doctors instead of scientists from the start.

“My hope is that they understand that the basic sciences they’re learning are a tool that they can use throughout their career,” Dr. Golden says. “We want them to be physicians first.”

The new curriculum further integrates the different disciplines with classes that discuss application of all of the naturopathic modalities in the context of each body system (i.e. respiratory system, circulatory system, cardiovascular system).

 “We’re trying to organize the concepts so that the students understand how the disciplines are connected and applied,” Dr. Golden says.

Earlier Exposure to Patients

Bastyr’s naturopathic medicine program already has more rigorous standards than most other schools, but students will no longer have to wait until after their second academic year to get that crucial exposure to patients.

“Year after year, students have commented that the program is very heavy in lecture time,” Dr. Guiltinan says. “They wanted more clinical exposure earlier in the program.”

By providing students with clinic training in their first year, Bastyr is following a trend that is growing across all modules in the health care industry, including allopathic and naturopathic schools.

The earlier clinical experience coincides with a decrease in traditional lecture time by about half, with a new emphasis on using innovative instructional methods to create a more independent and interactive learning environment.  This might include such things as hybrid online courses, voice-over PowerPoint lectures, webinars and other multimedia.

“The goal is to make the curriculum more manageable for students,” Dr. Golden says.

Campuswide Support

Basic sciences and naturopathic medicine faculty members started drumming up support for the curriculum change in early 2009, then formed a committee later in the year that included faculty and staff from other modalities as well as students.

“This really comes from the bottom up,” Dr. Guiltinan says, adding that their research of other schools has shown that faculty buy-in is a must for a successful curriculum revision.

Getting input throughout the process from students, alumni, faculty in all disciplines and administrators, also was key.

“We got input from many stakeholders,” Dr. Guiltinan says. “That’s one of the reasons I think we will be successful. I think we have a very good program designed.”

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