By John Shaw
Office of Strategic Communications
The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic continue to wreak havoc on the healthcare industry. Stress, trauma, burnout, and increased behavioral and health challenges have led to an exodus of healthcare workers that shows no signs of ending. But through interprofessional education and new programs focused on leadership, MGH Institute of Health Professions is working to reverse that trend.
Those topics were front and center during “The IHP Today: Bridging the Health Care Gap,” the school’s annual fall fundraiser held September 15. The event, which raised more than $300,000 for student scholarships, was highlighted by a discussion between Dr. Jeanette Ives Erickson, chair of the Institute’s Board of Trustees and Chief Nurse Emerita at the Massachusetts General Hospital, and Dr. David F.M. Brown, the hospital’s president.
Held in person for the first time in three years, the evening was emceed by Dr. Paula Milone-Nuzzo, MGH Institute president. She told the audience of faculty, staff, students, alumni, and supporters that worker shortages, an aging population, and an increase in the demand for health care are all jeopardizing access to care. Filling the pipeline with new healthcare practitioners who can care for an increasingly diverse population, she said, is what the Institute is focused on through innovative interprofessional training and new programs.
“The IHP is one of the few schools in the country where, on the first day on campus, students learn how to collaborate as part of an interprofessional team in classrooms, simulation, practice labs, and the community,” she said. “Skills such as communication, collaboration between patients, families, and members of the healthcare team, clinical judgment, and cultural competence in caring for people from all walks of life are competencies that we find incredibly important in health care providers today. We teach our students how to develop those competencies in a myriad of ways.”
Ives Erickson and Brown, close colleagues who worked together for several years at the hospital, touched upon several topics during a wide-ranging conversation. They included how the hospital is dealing with a shortage of healthcare workers – Brown said there’s a nationwide nursing shortage of 30% with other professions experiencing serious declines as well – his growing relationship with Milone-Nuzzo in strengthening the bond between the two institutions, the school’s emphasis on providing care for local residents as part of students’ education, and its commitment to justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion.
Brown, who just celebrated his first year as Mass General’s president, said the connection between the Institute and the hospital – which includes more than 700 alumni among its workforce – is critical to the success of both institutions.
“MGH is incredibly proud of the IHP and really proud to be associated with it in such a close way,” said Brown, who also noted the large number of students with clinical placements at the hospital and throughout the Mass General Brigham system, of which the Institute is the only degree-granting affiliate. “This is an example of where an integrated health system can really help because there's enormous clinical opportunity across two large agencies and three specialty hospitals and seven community hospitals all within reach. We are thrilled with the leadership and with the incredible talent that is produced here and rejuvenating our workforce. So, working together to keep this school vibrant and successful is important.”
Brown praised the Institute’s recent emphasis on launching degree programs focused on healthcare leadership and administration and said they will produce clinicians who can draw on their clinical experience and be well positioned to become change agents in care settings as well as the political spectrum. “We really need help in all those areas. I'm really excited to see how that group of students not only is trained, but then leaps into the workforce and helps us execute change,” he said.
Brenda Castillo Jiminian, a member of the Class of 2024 Master of Science in Nursing program, is a recipient of the Charles and Ann Sanders Interprofessional Scholarship. She gave a moving talk about her journey to the United States when she moved from the Dominican Republic to Hartford, CT when she was 9 years old. “Coming from a developing country, I grew up watching how the lack of health care, in addition to environmental factors, affected children the most,” she said. “From these experiences, I quickly developed an interest in health care and in wanting to create better care for low-income communities.”
As an undergrad at the University of Connecticut, she became a Certified Nursing Assistant where she saw how the lack of culturally competent care and translators affected the health outcome of patients. It was the spark that led her to pursing a nursing career, and she chose the Institute inspired by the accomplishments of its alumni.
“Being able to receive this scholarship means I have an open door and an opportunity to achieve my dreams and help decrease the gap in health care,” she told the audience, noting that she hopes to open her own practice in a disadvantaged community and provide accessible care after graduating. “Through this scholarship, I can pursue this career I am very passionate about, and it will help me give back these communities in the future.”
“The mission of the IHP is educating our future health care professionals to instill in them the highest standards and to nurture their passion and compassion. And hearing from Brenda, it sounds like we’re in very good hands,” said Peter Brown, chair of the school’s President’s Council. “We hope you will continue to do all you can to support this most wonderful institution and its powerful mission – not only tonight but for the weeks and months and years to come. It matters now more than ever – it truly does."
Donations for the event are still being accepted.