50 years of teaching and learning

simulation learning with a high-fidelity baby mannequin

Since its inception in 1968, North York General Hospital (NYGH) has focused on cultivating a culture of learning. The organization has collectively rallied around the goal of preparing the health care professionals of tomorrow, recognizing the important role education plays in both the present and the future delivery of care.

“As health care professionals and teachers, we know our learners bring out the very best in us,” says Dr. Rick Penciner, Director of Medical Education at the Centre for Education.“They ask questions that often challenge us to think differently or they bring an entirely new approach to solving a problem. This greatly enhances care of the patient.”

Dr. Rick Penciner
Dr. Rick Penciner, Director of Medical Education

Partnering with 42 different academic institutions

In the early years, NYGH learning opportunities were limited mostly to medical interns and nursing students. These interns and students jumped in where they were needed across the hospital, cementing North York General's reputation as a training institution that provided a well-rounded education. “From the beginning, interns, residents and students were eager to come here,” says Dr. Penciner, who himself joined the hospital in 1991 as a Family Medicine Resident. “Steadily, new educational opportunities became available as other health care professionals embraced the learning culture.”

Fast forward to present day — NYGH now educates close to 2,000 students in every area of the hospital from social work to emergency medicine, midwifery to pharmacy. To train future health care professionals, NYGH partners with 42 different academic institutions, the largest institution being the University of Toronto. The hospital essentially acts as an extension of the university, providing another place where students learn. Over 380 of our physicians have faculty appointments at University of Toronto Faculty of Medicine. 

NYGH doctors reviewing a set of x-rays
NYGH partners with 42 different academic institutions — the largest is the University of Toronto.

What's more, staff and physicians regularly produce scholarly work on teaching and learning. “We are not only trying to provide exceptional care, we're trying to find the best way to teach students how to deliver exceptional care,” Dr. Penciner says. 

In 2014, the hospital established the Centre for Education (CFE), a hub of scholarly activity designed to act as a physical and virtual space for all those who play a role in education at NYGH. “The CFE was created as a result of NYGH's renewed strategic focus on education,” Dr. Penciner says. “Our aim is to bring together staff and physicians from all areas of the hospital to explore how we can advance care through teaching and learning.”

Trends in education

While the emphasis on education has remained consistently strong, North York General's teaching methods have evolved over the past 50 years. The hospital continually finds new ways to enhance the student experience with programs such as the University of Toronto's Longitudinal Integrated Clerkship (LInC) program that allows students to study multiple disciplines integrated throughout the entire year.

Increasingly, simulations (artificial representation of a real world process) are gaining prominence in health care education, be it through sophisticated mannequins or role playing with actor patients.

“Simulations go hand-in-hand with our quality and patient safety imperative,” explains Dr. Penciner. “The more practice our learners get with artificial but lifelike situations, the better they are equipped to deal with the real thing. In the near future, I expect virtual reality will also become an important part of simulation education.”

Simulation training for a complex birth at NYGH

 "The more practice our learners get with artificial but lifelike situations, the better they are equipped to deal with the real thing in the near future," says Dr. Rick Penciner, Director of Medical Education. 

Another area that continues to be an educational focus is interprofessional education (IPE). The team approach to health care — emphasizing collaboration among various types of health care professions — has gained momentum over the past 15 years and NYGH continues to look for ways to integrate IPE in teaching and learning.

“We know that strong communication among health care team members is essential to delivering an exceptional care experience,” Dr. Penciner says. “In order to better prepare our learners for the team approach, we are focused on bringing together students from all areas in various educational opportunities so everyone can learn together.”

And, while there is no doubt that new technologies and online learning are helping to transform and enhance education, Dr. Penciner says one thing remains the same: the dedication and ingenuity of learners. “The next generation of health care professionals are incredibly engaged and focused on providing the very best care to patients and their families,” he says. “I'm excited to see how they transform and enhance health care for the future.”

Class of nursing assistants at Bethesda Training Centre,

 Class of nursing assistants at Bethesda Training Centre, under the administration of NYGH.  From its very beginning, North York General Hospital has been involved in teaching the next generation of health care professionals.

Our people speak…

This June, North York General celebrates 50 years of education during Teaching and Learning Week. The Pulse asked several event participants for their thoughts on education at NYGH:

"The ability to learn and grow in the field of medicine is dependent upon the relationship and environment of the mentor and apprentice. The preceptors at NYGH instill in us not only the belief that we can improve, but the desire to improve. Furthermore, they create an environment where one is comfortable to take the risks necessary for learning."
Dr. Alexandre Horobjowsky 
Co-Chief Resident, North York General Hospital

“When we graduated med school, we all knew that NYGH was the first pick of places to train in Family Medicine in Canada. Everyone wanted to train in a place that was committed to nurturing us to independence. We considered ourselves lucky to get in here. Twenty-eight years later, I still do.”
Dr. David Eisen
Chief of Family and Community Medicine and Program Medical Director

“Even back when I arrived over 30 years ago, my fellow nursing students and I knew that this hospital had a great reputation for being a close-knit and positive work environment. It was the place where we wanted to learn and where we wanted to begin our career in nursing.”
Susan Woollard 
Interim Vice President, Clinical Programs, Quality and Risk, Chief Nursing Executive

“What really stands out to me at North York General is that teaching and learning is woven into the fabric of this organization. Staff and physicians from all areas work together to provide a holistic educational experience to our learners. No one works in silos — Organization Development and the Centre for Education partner to ensure we offer comprehensive learning at NYGH.”
Jamie Campbell
Director, Organizational Development and Volunteer Services

NYGH's strategy: One of North York General's strategic pillars is to Advance Care through Teaching and Learning. Learn more about our strategy. 

This article first appeared in the June 2018 issue of The Pulse. 

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