U of M Medical School Offers New Course to Improve Provider Education in the Approach to the Opioid Epidemic

The University of Minnesota Medical School has introduced a new, easy-to-grasp, tangible training class aimed at improving provider education on the approaches to battling the opioid epidemic. The work was developed in response to requests from state senators and representatives and is the first curriculum in the country offered to medical students that tackles this growing issue.

“This class allows future doctors to give every mother, wife, husband or partner in our community the tools to play the role of the paramedic, in essence,” explained Charles Reznikoff, MD, FACP, who is an assistant professor of medicine at the Medical School. “By putting the doctor in the position to give this information to a wide group of people, they may each save a life.”

Earlier this year, the U.S. Surgeon General released an advisory—the first in 13 years—on naloxone and opioid overdose, stating that knowing how to use naloxone and keeping it within reach can save a life.

In an effort to improve education about the opioid epidemic, every student will now go through this class during their third year of medical school before they enter their clinical rotations, regardless of their focus area (pediatrics, family medicine, radiology, surgery, etc).  Through a hands-on training session, students will learn how to use naloxone, often known as Narcan, which is a medication used to counter the effects of opioid overdose, sometimes called a “heroin antidote.”

“You can put a list of facts to memorize in front of students, and while they may be good at memorizing those facts, how do you make that knowledge stick? The answer is with hands-on training. By putting the knowledge in the context of something bigger, the students can internalize it and own it,” said Reznikoff.

At the end of the training, each student will get their own naloxone kit. Anne Pereira, MD, MPH, FACP, who is the assistant dean for curriculum and an associate professor of medicine at the Medical School, made it clear that after the training, the students will not administer naloxone to patients—if they use them it will be as a friend or family member out in the community, not as a medical student. This tactic ensures more kits are out in the community, which for every ten kits distributed, one saves a life, according to Pereira.

“The training is both practical and symbolic,” said Pereira.  “It is an important way to engage students in some of these tough issues and get them more comfortable talking about and thinking about these issues.”

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