With the launch of a "digital campus" in 2021, the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation's Addiction & Recovery Institute for Medical Education introduced a one-of-a-kind learning center for healthcare professionals. Initial offerings include a special-focus lecture series on substance use disorders and related virtual learning community activities. In late 2021, we held the first fully virtual program for medical students, designed to replicate the immersive Summer Institute for Medical Students experience.
"The ability to offer our immersive learning experiences through digital technologies creates promising new opportunities at the intersection of medical education and substance use disorders," says Joseph Skrajewski, executive director of medical and professional education for the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation. "Thanks to generous donor support, we can continue to innovate, develop and advance learning opportunities for aspiring physicians and practicing clinicians."
From a discussion board that allows program cohorts to connect virtually, to an online 24/7 treatment and recovery resource site, the Institute's digital campus supports and empowers more healthcare professionals in understanding their role and influence in guiding individuals with substance use disorders.
"Warmth is something I try to bring into every patient encounter, but since participating in the immersive Hazelden Betty Ford program, I also try to add more validation and space for listening rather than talking.
I am currently on my internal medicine rotation, so I see a wide range of pathology and patients. I try to be more mindful of the language I use surrounding behaviors that are negatively impacting my patient's health and spend a few extra minutes to have a better understanding of what emotions and experiences are tied to these behavior patterns. I can recognize the strength it takes in being honest about the behaviors my patients are struggling with and join them as a partner in their health care, rather than simply 'telling' them to change.
I hope addiction education can progress to a norm within healthcare organizations. Being that nearly every person is affected by addiction in some way, I wholeheartedly believe immersive addiction training is of benefit to any individual working in medicine."
"My biggest takeaway from the program was seeing the very real bonds that formed among recovery group members, and how their discussions and shared experiences contributed to their healing.
Hazelden Betty Ford counselors embraced their clients' complexities, and this was another very valuable lesson for me. As a third-year student, I am learning how medical teams in various specialties (surgery, internal medicine, psychiatry, etc.) develop treatment plans for their patients in the hospital setting. Much of the time, there are complications and complexities that make executing these treatment plans less than straightforward. What this program has reinforced to me is that healthcare providers must embrace these complexities rather than dismiss them.
Patients see their providers with hopes of being heard and healed, so it is natural that they often open up about struggles in their life—even struggles that may not seem to pertain directly to their medical needs. It is essential that I, as a provider, empathize with these struggles and address them in whatever capacity I can."
"No matter what medical specialty students ultimately choose, they will always have patients who suffer from substance use disorders among their patient population—even when substance use disorder isn't the primary medical condition they are treating. Hazelden Betty Ford's immersive program gave me invaluable insight into the symptoms of addiction as well as how those symptoms can interact with other illnesses.
I was fascinated to learn about addiction as a chronic illness and to compare the similarities between addiction and other chronic diseases, similarities such as a long developmental period, associated functional impairment and the absence of a cure. This perspective helped me understand substance use disorder as a challenge the patient will continue to face throughout their lifetime.
Recognizing addiction as a chronic disease also gives hope, because a recurrence of symptoms isn't viewed as a 'failure'—it is seen as a part of the disease process. As medical providers, this realization allows us to shift our expectations, guidance and support for our patients to facilitate the healing process."