Continuity Mentors

The continuity mentor (CM) program provides Geisinger Commonwealth School of Medicine students with a longitudinal clinical experience across the four years of medical education. Together with the regional weeks, CM’s ground the students learning experience in the life of the community where they will live and learn during their clinical years. Geisinger Commonwealth’s goal of retaining physicians to work in northeastern and central Pennsylvania encourages us to have the students interact with many professionals and people in the region. There is a growing body of evidence to suggest that students’ relationships with physician mentors as well as the population served increases student empathy and compassion through the process of medical education. As medical educators strive to find ways to refocus medical education on the needs of the people served, the CM role provides students a unique look at the importance of primary care to individuals as well as communities.

Continuity mentor

A primary care physician who wants to develop a relationship with a medical student over three to four years. This relationship, built over intermittent visits in the first two years will lead to the student having a weekly commitment to your practice and patients in their third year. The fourth-year commitment will be negotiated between student and CM. This position is ideal for family doctors and general primary care internists who take care of individuals and families in the community.

Continuity mentor program goals

  • Living laboratory to apply the knowledge and skills obtained in years one and two patient care curricula.
  • Experience continuity of care and how it improves patient outcomes and satisfaction.
  • Recognize the essential physician skills needed to address acute care, chronic illness care and preventative care to achieve the best outcomes.
  • Collaborate with patients and a mentor to assist in coordination of medical care needed to treat illnesses and maintain optimal health.
  • Describe how primary care physicians relate to payers, pharmacies, laboratories, specialists and other members of the healthcare team.
  • Communicate with patients about their illnesses, treatments and behaviors that have an adverse effect on health.
  • Learn the importance of documentation and demonstrate the ability to document medical encounters.
  • Encourage the use of evidence-based information in a practice setting.
  • Recognize the preventive services recommended for each patient and the challenges in the current system to applying this to the general population.
  • Demonstrate how primary care physicians can influence healthy behavior change though collaborative relationships with patients.

Years one and two

The students’ connection to your practice is through the regionally-based community weeks curriculum. A primary focus of these weeks is to value the importance of high quality primary care to the health of individuals and their communities. During these weeks, students interact with you and your patients. Your practice will be a living laboratory where students are encouraged to practice their clinical skills under your supervision. CM’s are encouraged to ask their student to join them in other community or educational activities during their time with you. The community weeks are spread out through the first two years- each week the student will return to you with more medical knowledge and clinical skills that they are eager to practice. The goal of the Geisinger Commonwealth CM program is to have the student be an integrated team member into your practice by their third year when they will be spending a half day most weeks in your practice serving your patients.

Year one, week one objectives

  • Begin the relationship.
  • Share with them your passion for primary care and people.
  • Ask student what they are interested in learning.
  • Share contact information and your preferred methods of communication.
  • Reflect with the student at end of session – what brought meaning and value that day.
  • Introduce your patient care team and all practice staff assisting you in your mission.
  • Introduce student to your patients.
  • Have staff alert patients to presence of student.
  • Always ask patient permission to have student interact with them.
  • Find ways to integrate student to your daily flow.
  • Students are able to interview with assistance.
  • Allow them time to practice and give them feedback as appropriate.
  • Students will practice patient-centered interviewing skills they have learned through our standardized patient program (at least one independent interview for student).
  • Provide cultural awareness.
  • Take time to honor teachable moments in your daily practice of medicine.
  • Teach students about your practice and work flow.
  • Let students observe your interviewing style.

Year one, week two objectives

  • Continue the relationship.
  • Encourage student interaction with staff.
  • Allow student to have greater autonomy.
  • Arrange for the first-year student to interview patients independently.
  • Students will practice patient-centered interviewing skills they have learned through our standardized patient program.
  • Two smoking cessation interventions (if possible)

Year one, week three objectives

  • Continue the relationship.
  • Encourage student interaction with staff.
  • Two focused physical exams

Year two, week one objectives

  • Apply knowledge from systems course to application in clinical setting.
  • Help student chose two patients with chief concern in the areas of skin, musculosketel or gastrointestinal systems.
  • Observe physical exam skills applied to this patient (students will need your mentoring and reassurance though all have passed a physical exam competency).
  • Encourage the student after the encounter to summarize the “problem” and think through the process of outlining a reasonable plan. As second-year students they will need mentoring on reasonable and how to sequence labs and imaging.
  • Students are expected to complete two focused physical exams in the areas related to what they have recently covered. If you need to, it is ok to have two in one area. Optimally, we would like two areas covered.
  • You are always free to help them with all three if you feel you have the time.
  • You are expected to complete and return an evaluation sheet documenting your students performance of the clinical assignments.

Year two, week two objectives

  • Apply knowledge from systems course to application in clinical setting.
  • Allow student to chose two patients with a chief concern in any area, assist with areas of focus in particular brief review of systems for a focused interview and physical exam.
  • Observe physical exam skills applied to these two patients (students will need your mentoring and reassurance though all have passed a physical exam competency).
  • Encourage the student after the encounter to summarize the “problem” and think through suggesting a reasonable plan.
  • Students are expected to complete two focused exams in any area. If you need to, it is ok to have two in one area. Optimally, we would like two areas covered.
  • You are expected to complete and return an evaluation sheet documenting your students performance of the clinical assignments.
  • You are always free to help them with more if you feel you have the time.

Year two, week three objectives

  • Transition to Longitudinal Integrated Clerkship (LIC).
  • Take time at beginning of session to outline your expectations for a third-year medical student working in your office.
  • Allow them more independent interaction with patients.
  • Allow student to chose a patient with a chief concern in any area, assist with areas of focus in particular brief review of systems.
  • Observe physical exam skills applied to this patient (students will need your mentoring and reassurance though all have passed a physical exam competency).
  • Encourage the student after the encounter to summarize the “problem” and think through suggesting a reasonable plan.
  • Students are expected to complete only one focused exam with you in any area. The second exam will be done in another LIC office.
  • You are expected to complete and return an evaluation sheet documenting your students performance of the clinical assignments.
  • You are always free to help them with more if you feel you have the time.

Requirements for continuity mentors

  • Obtain a volunteer clinical faculty appointment at Geisinger Commonwealth School of Medicine.
  • Keep your faculty appointment active, by participating in Geisinger Commonwealth faculty development and CME sessions, precepting students and participating in other Geisinger Commonwealth committees or activities.
  • Currently practice as a primary care physician in a role such as family practitioner, primary care internist, outpatient director/attending or serve in a role that allows for the delivery of primary care to individuals or a population.

Current continuity mentors can find more information in the Geisinger Commonwealth portal. If you work in our service area and are interested in becoming a continuity mentor, or would like to learn more about becoming a continuity mentor, please contact the Regional Campus Development office via email or call (570) 504-9067.