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Marcie Hopkins, University of Utah Health
How to Master Education in the Health Professions
The new Master of Education in Health Professions degree program offers a unique opportunity to improve teaching skills, influence the future of clinical care, and increase the impact of clinical educators. The program’s interprofessional leaders, Joanne Rolls, Rebecca Wilson, and Wendy Hobson-Rohrer, share why the program is important and offer a few quick tips to improve your teaching today.

ou have probably heard that clinical knowledge doubles every three to five years. We can’t possibly teach all that knowledge to our learners while they are training; instead, we need to revolutionize how we teach. We need to teach our students how to learn, unlearn, and relearn, and how to actively guide their own education throughout their own career. We have to teach people the foundational knowledge that doesn’t change, such as the humanism of health care, the art of the interview, and the technique of a physical exam. But we also need to provide a framework for the things that are constantly changing, such as drug therapies.

The answer is leveraging evidence-based practice for education. Health care education gives us the greatest opportunity to make a long-term impact on patient and public health by training the next generation of health care providers. Through education, you impact future generations of nurses, doctors, physician assistants and more to provide high quality care.

When you teach a skill that will be used over the course of a health professional’s lifetime—estimated at 100,000 patient encounters—the impact is exponential. The legacy of education lives on, even after you are long out of practice.

Learning how to thrive in the dynamic world of medical knowledge and team-based care inspired us to create the Master of Education in Health Professions. This new interprofessional program is designed for people with advanced degrees in health professions. It is a joint effort between University of Utah Health Sciences and University of Utah College of Education. The program emphasizes the skills, theories, models and competencies for effective clinical or classroom learning.

The idea for this project started in 2014 and was Wendy’s project for the Executive Leadership in Academic Medicine program. There were many programs across the country, but we didn’t have one in the Intermountain West. Many of our faculty were spending time away from campus to attend these programs, so we wanted to grow our own program here to ensure we were providing the best education for our students in Utah.

Become a Better Educator

We learn how to be a clinician, and we learn how to teach patients, but it’s a different skill set to learn how to be a faculty member. We want to really understand our learners, look critically at how we were educated and be willing to make changes. The more formal education we have about learning, the more calculated we can become in the risks that we take when doing something new for students. Instead of just watching people or replicating how you were taught, we can try new things and know they will be successful because there is evidence.

Most faculty have had this experience—getting assigned a particular class or section, and you have to start in a few weeks. The lure of jumping straight to PowerPoint and dumping everything you know on the slides is real. This program helps you step back and look at the practical elements of creating instruction and education materials for health professionals. It teaches you the instructional design principles you need to create a more effective lecture or course.

But we all know that a majority of healthcare education doesn’t take place in lecture halls with PowerPoints, it takes place in clinics and hospitals. Our program teaches you how to be intentional about what you teach, particularly in clinical settings. You can mindfully give students space to think, to commit to an answer about a diagnosis or a treatment plan and then provide feedback in that moment for a more complete teaching experience.

Invest in a growth mindset

Our students tell us that having a growth mindset is one of the most important things we can do as an educator. This program helps you develop a growth mindset. We need to help people learn to thrive in health professions where there aren’t always clear right and wrong answers. When mistakes or failure occurs, people with a fixed mindset tend to believe that they are a bad clinician, questioning their entire value. We as educators can help people recognize that growth is a part of learning—uncomfortable as it may be—and help them recognize and build systems where a growth mindset is supported.

Learn with an interprofessional team

Our Master’s of Education in the Health Professions program is unique because it is interprofessional.

Most programs are aimed at physicians; University of Utah Health’s program is for all health professionals. Our faculty in the program are also interprofessional. It has been a deliberate choice at every turn to develop an interprofessional program. 

As health professionals, we have a shared goal of protecting the public. It is this inherent value that unites all of our professions. Having a shared educational language, vision, and goals makes us a community across Health Sciences and reflects how we practice. The more comfortable faculty are learning together, the more comfortable they will become teaching together.

Interprofessional learning can also support an economy of scale within health professional education. We all teach similar things in our programs, such as ethical decision-making. Many of the decisions we make when we’re in practice are made in interprofessional teams. We could be learning together from day one and creating those relationships to deliver better care.

Teaching and learning together can also impact team dynamics in clinical settings. Interprofessional teams have the benefit of more diverse perspectives that can improve care as a whole. And that’s the true end goal of better education: to improve care and protect our patients. Our patients benefit when we work better, learn better, and teach better together.

These principles include evaluating your goals for the course, measuring those goals and setting up your materials to successfully teach others. Instead of just putting together a PowerPoint because you know you have a lecture coming up, you can take a step back and be thoughtful about what you need to communicate to students.

Invest in your own impact

If you have an advanced degree in healthcare and have a love for teaching, you can benefit from this program. More and more, programs are recognizing that education is a science and that it’s improved when faculty members understand that science. As a faculty member, having a degree in education and real-world experience in education that our program provides can help you progress through the promotion pathway and contribute to a greater community of health education professionals through scholarship.

But most of all, if you’re going to have a long career as a faculty member, learning how to educate can help prevent burnout. There is something you can take from every class and apply to your teaching, and that makes teaching more satisfying. When we think about helping people, what better way than to ensure your learners have a better experience? You know your teaching will have impact.

This article originally posted February 7, 2022. It has been updated to reflect current programmatic information.


Wendy Hobson-Rohrer

Professor of Pediatrics, Associate Vice President for Health Sciences Education, University of Utah Health

Joanne Rolls

Associate Professor (Clinical), Associate Director, Master of Education in Health Professions, University of Utah Health

Rebecca Wilson

Associate Professor (Clinical), Director, Master of Education in Health Professions, University of Utah Health

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