Integrated Problem Solving

Most medical schools require preclinical students take a course where they work in groups to complete a differential diagnosis of a patient case. A facilitator (researcher, physician, etc.) moderates the group’s activity by providing relevant feedback but should have a minimal role in conducting the session. Baylor Med calls this integrated problem solving (IPS), but it’s commonly referred to as problem based learning (PBL) by other institutions.

So how effective is this course?

First of all, facilitators provide incredibly variable feedback depending on their training. Researchers tend to be better at allowing students to conduct the differential amongst themselves whereas physicians are better at providing clinical correlations to the current case.

Second, some schools use IPS as a cornerstone to medical education. Theoretically, it’s meant to simulate the cooperative learning environment that is the medical profession, yet I feel it’s a bit awkward in the beginning. Are the cases we read relatively common in practice? Do we even know enough in the first month or two to know what details are important? Then again, I guess it’s part of the learning process. 🙂

My favorite thing about IPS is the small group setting. I’m much more comfortable sharing my opinions (even if they’re going against the grain) with the classmates I’ve gotten to know during these weekly sessions. Plus, it’s so much easier to stay focused when only 7-10 people are sharing opinions.

I’m glad Baylor Med only has one IPS session per week. Getting accustomed to working in a group is important, yet I don’t think IPS is a substitution for getting out there in the clinics and working as a team to diagnose patients in real life.

Just my two cents.

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