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Fellows engage in quality improvement research projects and experiential learning opportunities at their sites, as well as with the VAQS national didactic curriculum. The VA Quality Scholars curriculum consists of four courses – Quality Improvement Core, Methods and Analysis, Career and Scholarship, and Practice Change Leadership. Each week a course is presented through our virtual platform to all our nine sites throughout North America. VAQS fellows develop proficiencies in leadership for quality improvement to the VA and the nation.

VA Quality Scholars Courses

QI Core

Course Description:

This course is designed around the 6 Dimensions of Quality (safety, effectiveness, equity, efficiency, timeliness, and patient-centeredness) as outlined by the 2001 report from the Institute of Medicine. The goal of this course is to develop interprofessional leaders with a foundational knowledge base in quality improvement to improve the quality and value of the healthcare system. As part of QI Core, each site is required to present a current QI project in process during sessions called “Fellows’ Forum”. This provides an opportunity for the presenting fellow to gain feedback from peers and faculty from across the 9 sites. The overarching competencies for the course are:

  1. Lead, follow, and make positive changes in health care delivery.
  2. Describe the social context and accountability of health care, including an understanding of the local, regional, national, and global context of health care, including financing.

Sample sessions:

  • Introduction to Systems Thinking
  • Diffusion of Innovations
  • Human-Centered Design
  • Ethical Issues in QI
  • Safety : Patient Safety
  • Timely
  • Effective
  • Efficient
  • Equitable
  • Patient Centered : Patient Centered Care
  • Fellows forum on QI projects
  • Individual QI Projects
  • National QI Projects

Methods & Analysis

Course Description: 

VAQS fellows must be proficient in leading and participating in quality improvement initiatives. This course provides the applied QI methods and analysis skills necessary to design, plan, implement, evaluate, manage, and sustain a QI project. The course is built upon the following competencies:

  1. Apply the methods and skills associated with process improvement
  2. Design, implement, manage, and monitor quality improvement systems
  3. Responsibly conduct research
  4. Demonstrate knowledge of study design
  5. Demonstrate knowledge of statistical approaches/sources of error
  6. Demonstrate appropriate knowledge and use of healthcare informatics

Sample Sessions:

  • Study Design
  • Informatics I : Introduction to Informatics
  • Informatics II
  • LEAN
  • Agile Project Management
  • Qualitative Methods : Focus Groups
  • Surveys
  • Failure Mode Effect Analysis
  • Analysis I
  • Analysis II
  • Advanced Analysis Techniques I
  • Advanced Analysis Techniques II
  • Implementation I : Innovative Designs for QI
  • Implementation II : Evaluation Frameworks

Practice Change Leaders

Course Description:

The goal of this course is to shape VA Quality Scholars into practice change leaders within their organizations. Fellows will acquire the necessary skills and content expertise to lead quality improvement projects and become agents of change. These practice-based, interactive sessions will focus on using their current projects as hands-on learning of critical and transformative leadership skills. Fellows will learn and apply change frameworks to guide project implementation within their organization. They will understand the steps to create a climate for change, engage and enable the whole institution, and finally implement and sustain the change. The overarching competencies of this course are:

  1. Work with individuals of other professions to maintain a climate of mutual respect and shared values
  2. Use the knowledge of one’s own role and those of other professions to improve healthcare systems
  3. Communicate with patients, families, communities, and other health professionals in a responsive and responsible manner that supports a team approach to the improvement of healthcare systems.
  4. Apply relationship-building values and the principles of team dynamics to perform effectively in different team roles to improve quality and safety
  5. Formulate a personal leadership philosophy that will be effective in a post-fellowship career role

Sample Sessions:

  • Introduction to Practice Change Leaders
  • Creating Urgency : Framing the Problem and Creating a Transformational Goal 
  • Forming a Power Coalition : Case for Clinician Leaders
  • Creating a Vision for Change 
  • Communicating Your Vision : Identifying Stakeholders
  • Empowering Others/Removing Obstacles : Conflict Management
  • Creating Short Term Wins : PDSA Cycles
  • Building on the Change : Identifying Future Directions of Your QI Project
  • Changes in Culture : Context of Organizational Culture

Career & Scholarship

Course Description:

As competent and confident leaders, VA Quality Scholar fellowship graduates will have the requisite self-efficacy to bring an interprofessional team together and guide them towards common quality improvement goals. Through this course, fellows will also learn the skills of publishing and promoting their QI work, as well as forwarding their own career trajectory through self-branding, effective interviewing, and negotiation by developing the following competencies:

  1. Describe the current literature about teaching improvement in health professions education
  2. Critique Literature
  3. Participate as a lecturer, small group leader, or teaching assistant in a course, class, or workshop about improvement
  4. Embrace a learner-centered pedagogy in understanding the developmental stages of learners
  5. Demonstrate scientific communication
  6. Communicate effectively with various constituencies that are consumers of QI information (caregivers and support staff, physician and administrative leaders, trustees, media)
  7. Develop an approach to setting and achieving personal learning goals that anticipate your emerging professional needs

Sample Sessions:

  • Scholarship of Teaching
  • Adult Learning Theory : Designing Teaching Strategies
  • Individual Development Plan
  • Writing and Publishing in QI : SQUIRE
  • Reviewing Manuscripts and Abstracts
  • Communicating Scholarly Results and Findings : Tailoring Communication of Results for the Public
  • Self-Branding/Marketing : Tailoring Experience for Desired Career Path
  • Interviewing and Negotiation
  • Work/Life Balance : Time Management

Other Curricular Opportunities

Advanced Measurement Special Interest Group

To facilitate an applied understanding of fundamental and advanced improvement measurement concepts, methods, and skills with a scope broader than that provided by the VAQS TWIV curriculum or by SPC courses in most MPH or MS programs. Participants may volunteer examples from their own work for discussion and consultation in the group.

Each session will have two 30 minute segments: (1) theory burst; and (2) case presentations.

Sample Sessions:

  • Basic and intermediate SPC review, case consultation
  • XR charts, case consultation
  • Cumulative Sum (CuSum) charts, case consultation
  • Exponentially Weighted Moving Average (EMWA) charts, case consultation
  • Standardized SPC charts, case consultation
  • Multivariate SPC charts case consultation
  • SPC with regression generated (slanted) center line, case consultation
  • SPC to control for seasonal (temporal) effects, case consultation
  • Case studies and/or case consultations

Health Systems Improvement Green Belt Certification

This course was designed for clinicians to develop the following skills through completing the coursework, a quality improvement project captured in an A3, and taking the Green Belt exam:

  • LEAN methodology
  • Agile project management
  • Improvement analytics
  • Practical change management
  • Reliability methods

Sample Sessions:

  • Uncovering Operational Barriers
  • Process Mapping
  • Identifying Barriers to Flow
  • Clinical Microsystems
  • Teamwork and Group Dynamics
  • Plan Do Study Act (PDSA) Rapid Cycle Change
  • CDI Boards
  • Understanding Lean
  • Lean Improvement Methods
  • Macro Perspective
  • Lean Leadership