Students get firsthand research experience in UNMH Emergency Department: UNM Newsroom


A program at the University of New Mexico Department of Emergency Medicine allows students to participate in hands-on clinical research while working with staff and patients in the UNMH emergency department. The multi-semester Research in Acute Care program is open to undergraduate students and others interested in careers in healthcare and related fields, giving them the opportunity to work closely with physicians and staff and interact with patients.

What has long been commonly referred to as the “emergency room” is in fact now an entire department at the UNM hospital, said Silas Bussmann, associate director for research at UNM’s Department of Emergency Medicine.

“It’s so much bigger than a room now,” he said, with about 90 single rooms, a 70-bed adult emergency room, and a 12-bed pediatric ward with specialized areas for patients with respiratory problems, patients under observation, or those with psychiatric conditions Complaints. The emergency room receives over 100,000 unique visits annually.

“That’s one of the reasons they’re building a new hospital,” he noted.

In an emergency room that’s open 24 hours a day, it’s difficult to staff and conduct research, epidemiological surveillance, quality assurance and observational data collection with the current budget, Bussmann explained. Therefore, the faculty and the administration of the department decided to create an educational activity with structured learning around research, research design and research implementation, especially in a clinical hospital setting, since many health science students wanted to have experiences in this field.

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“We get a lot of undergraduate students who are interested in careers in healthcare or related fields who want to see if they’re interested in going into the ER to get the experience, do research and work in a clinical setting working and speaking with patients, and also contributing to institutional and departmental public health and research initiatives,” he said. A solid background in fundamental sciences such as chemistry and biology is helpful, as is an understanding of common public health issues and the social determinants of health.

“The main campus has a lot of research design courses and research theory courses, but very few courses where you actually do research, your own or other people’s, and even fewer courses that are still in a clinical setting, so that was really our goal . I don’t think any other department has been brave enough – or foolish enough – to try to bring students into the clinical setting so they can work independently and interact with patients. We do, and it requires a strong component of mentorship, but that’s our duty as an educational institution, and I don’t think there are any research courses on campus that prepare people as well to conduct FDA-regulated human subject research as this one does Course. ‘ remarked Bussman.

In the course, students will accompany physicians and emergency department staff and be independently responsible for screening or patient tracing in the clinical setting, complemented by an instructional component teaching them research design and compliance. They may also be assigned other duties if they show suitability.

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“We expect them to have access to all areas of the ER and strongly encourage them to spend time in all of those areas … We strongly encourage them to be involved in diverse job roles and areas,” Bussmann said. “I tell them that the most interesting thing is to accompany a nurse who is in charge of a specific shift because on this shift she has to solve many problems of the health system that allow the emergency room to work. ”

Students who complete the course will have a solid background in research and patient care in an emergency department and will be well prepared for further, more formal medical education. Students leave class after enrolling a patient in a clinical research study. Career opportunities abound.

Past students have participated in a range of research projects including patient satisfaction in the ED and wait time expectations, impact of the Affordable Care Act on patient decision making, and alcohol abuse by patients in the ED.

Bussmann cited former student Kisa King as a success story from the Research in Acute Care program. King completed the course prior to attending medical school at UNM, then completed residency in the Department of Emergency Medicine at Stony Brook University Hospital on Long Island in New York, and recently returned to UNM as a faculty member. She made the news in 2020 when she became the first Stony Brook hospital worker to receive the new COVID vaccine.

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King is now an assistant professor in UNM’s Department of Emergency Medicine, where Bussmann hopes she will teach undergraduate medical students.

“Emergency rooms really were that frontline when COVID came along. They needed to be the best prepared and the most scalable to meet the healthcare needs brought on by the pandemic. So, emergency medicine is expanding very quickly, and many opportunities for healthcare advancements right now are in expanding the availability of emergency and emergency care services.”

Emergency rooms are growing incredibly fast and have become an increasingly central part of how the healthcare system works. As there is a growing shortage of general practitioner offices and general practitioners, wait times for appointments are increasing by weeks or even months, and patients are becoming more reliant on emergency and emergency care scenarios, Bussmann said. One of the main objectives of the course is to introduce students to this field of healthcare while learning about its opportunities and challenges through conducting research.

Visit the website for program and registration details.

Picture, from left: acute care research participant Xander Augustson, undergraduate research fellow; Tom Limanovich, Research Coordinator for Internships; Munia Omer, research assistant; Silas Bussmann, associate director for research in emergency medicine; Sarah Lavelle, research coordinator; and Muskan Katoch, research assistant.



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