Aug 5, 2011

Chapter Corner: The Importance of Sharing Knowledge

By itself, content is limiting. While the information from a book is useful, there is no incentive or opportunity to offer an opinion and receive a response. It is simply a one-way flow of information. It's the people we meet and speak to that hold the real knowledge. As social creatures, others' work and life experiences will resonate more with us when we ask questions and have the opportunity to respond directly, whether it is in person or through email. I know all of these things because I learned them firsthand.

I asked a colleague of mine if they knew anyone working with process improvement in healthcare, and they put me in contact with two professors at Emory University's School of Medicine. From these connections, I was put in touch with a director at a nearby hospital's center for clinical performance improvement, as well as the Chief Quality Officers at two other hospitals. I've learned a tremendous amount from my conversations with them.

My conversations with these people were the true driving force that sparked my interest in quality improvement in healthcare, and I try to drop a line to say "hi" every few weeks or months. I'm even working with the director at the clinical performance improvement center to establish a quality improvement project for the Atlanta IHI Open School students. It's experiences like these where I find value in establishing new relationships, especially with those so willing to give back to students.

Here are some other ideas on sharing knowledge:

  • Take advantage of others' knowledge by talking to fellow students, teachers, leaders - anyone you can make time for (and can make time for you).
  • Search on LinkedIn for professionals in the area who are involved in healthcare improvement (after all, wasn't LinkedIn made for networking?).
  • Email leaders from other schools in your region, or across the country. See what others are doing and network to share ideas.
  • Read the "Chapter Accomplishments" on the IHI Open School website and find ideas that interest you and your group.
  • Contact schools to learn more about their methodologies and challenges to accomplishing their goals. (It's been my group's experience that IHI Open School chapter leaders are extremely receptive to sharing ideas.)
  • Talk to others to share knowledge and to generate opportunities. People generally love to talk about themselves, and would be more than happy to meet or speak about their experiences (probably more willing to do so than you might think).
  • Talk to professors and coworkers, and ask them about what they do and how they got there. Ask if they know others in quality or process improvement, and see if you could set up a time to chat with them for 15 minutes. This could lead to new partnerships with your chapter, quality improvement projects, mentorships, additional IHI Open School exposure, among other advantages. Once you've developed those relationships, maintain them by following up throughout the year.

I reached out to one of my public health professors to ask about her work in quality improvement and told her about my involvement with the IHI Open School. After some meetings and phone calls, we eventually established two quality and process improvement team projects for IHI students to be involved in, and we hope to find the right students to make these initiatives a success! It's my hope that I'll be able to give back the same way that these professionals did for me.

I've found it invaluable to have these discussions with others, and I encourage other chapters to do the same. It sounds simple, but it can be tough work to find and maintain these relationships. We will always have something new to learn from each other.

- Becky Ng, Public Health student, Emory University