PROGRAMS. Sahlgrenska Academy has applied for degree-awarding powers from the Swedish Higher Education Authority (UKÄ) for a completely new medical program. Courses have been revised and the order changed for the program’s semesters to better ensure that the qualitative targets are met and to create a clearer progression throughout the program.
Recently, UKÄ held interviews with representatives of the University of Gothenburg via Zoom, including Vice-Chancellor Eva Wiberg, Dean Agneta Holmäng, and Vice Dean Silvana Naredi, with groups of teachers, students, and program coordinators, and with representatives from the medical care system.
“So far, we have not received any negative signals in the contacts we have had with UKÄ. They have understood that we have completely redesigned the program to meet the requirements for a new medical program and, at first glance, seem to feel that we have done a good job,” says Agneta Ekman, chair of the medical program committee who led the work to develop the new medical program.
After the summer, UKÄ is expected to inform Sahlgrenska Academy about any additions and modifications to the program syllabus for the new medical program that they require. In October, UKÄ is expected to decide on the application for new degree-awarding powers.
Since there was not much time to prepare the new medical program and to build support for it in the larger organization, the medical program committee chose to include many teachers and other key persons in a working group from the start.
“By involving many different people, we were able to prepare and build support for the new program in a single process. It is always time-consuming to adjust to a completely new degree program, but as the new semester coordinating teachers worked on the program, the potential offered by a new program became more apparent for most of them. Not everyone is completely satisfied, but on the whole we have developed a program that most of the people involved believe will work well,” says Ekman.
Preclinical knowledge remains important
The new medical program means that the former general residential training (AT), for which the regions are responsible, is being eliminated and is replaced by a basic residential training (BT) between six and twelve months before specialist training (ST). As the medical program is becoming the basis for a medical license, the university will need to teach and test more clinical skills during the program. Preclinical basic science will continue to be important for the medical program in Gothenburg, which has always been careful to ensure that the students receive a solid preclinical foundation. However, in the new medical program, clinical subjects and skills will be integrated earlier and include more clinical training.
“The students we train must be better prepared to meet patients. We are expanding and providing earlier teaching on interacting with patients and conversational skills, and there will be more clinical training.”
The dangerous and the normal
The new medical program is being adapted to the transition taking place in the care system, where patients are increasingly receiving help in primary care rather than in the hospital. More of the clinical training will be placed in medical centers, where such subjects as infection, ear, nose and throat, and psychiatry will have intended learning outcomes. At the same time, general medicine as a subject will be given more attention.
“In the new program, we focus on the conditions and diseases that are common and those that are dangerous. Even if we will not be teaching much about less common or serious ailments, it is important that students learn to recognize conditions that are less common and potentially dangerous. This is an important challenge, especially considering that the general residential training is being eliminated.”
The new program consists of twelve interconnected semester courses. A program council has been created, where teachers responsible for coordinating each semester work together to ensure that there is a good progression during the program. The program council will also facilitate the planning of clinical training and ensure that re-exams and other compulsory elements do not interfere with other courses during a semester.
For the new medical program, Sahlgrenska Academy has initiated a collaboration with the PIL pedagogy unit, which will provide two representatives to whom teachers can turn with pedagogic questions.
“We have traditionally had a lot of lecturing for our medical students, but we are now introducing more digital elements at the same time as student-activating pedagogy is given more attention, for example through the use of Active Learning Classrooms.”
Days before the announcement of remote teaching
The application for degree-awarding powers was submitted to the UKÄ in March, just a few days before the announcement that all in-person teaching would be cancelled and would be conducted remotely instead.
“We were lucky that we were ready with the proposal for the new medical program before we had to make the huge switch to remote teaching. This allowed us to focus on one thing at a time. At the same time, I am convinced that we will also benefit greatly from our experiences from digital teaching during the pandemic even on the new medical program.”
The pandemic has resulted in the cancellation of several national meetings about the new medical program. The regions have been authorized by the Government to postpone the start of basic residential training for one year, but this does not affect the start of the new medical program, which is set for the autumn semester of 2021.
Of course, much remains to be done to implement and start the program that so far only exists on paper. Examination assessments need to be designed, the clinical training needs to be planned and scheduled, and various modules and learning activities have to be developed.
Since the order of courses has been adjusted compared to the previous program, transitional rules need to be in place that specify how students who, for example, have had study leaves from the old program and want to complete their studies in the new program, should be administered. Initially, when the two medical programs are given in parallel, the transfer of courses may also involve duplication of work, when teachers must teach in both programs until the old one has been phased out.
“It will be interesting to see how the application ratio is affected during the transition phase. We have discussed this during the process, but it is difficult to know if the students will prefer the old or the new program,” says Ekman.
Composition in the program council where the semester coordinators collaborate:
Johan Mölne (chair)
Anne Uv (Semester 1)
Holger Nilsson (Semester 2)
Mikael Nilsson (Semester 3)
Agneta Ekman (Semester 4)
Johan Westin (Semester 5)
Maria Schaufelberger (Semester 6)
Åse Johnsson (Semester 7)
Silke Kern (Semester 8)
Jovanna Dahlgren (Semester 9)
Lena Björkman (Semester 10)
Lars Börjesson (Semester 11)
Karin Manhem (Semester 12)
TEXT: ELIN LINDSTRÖM