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Students’ research experience offers valuable lessons in teamwork.

While change is sometimes difficult, it can bring about great things. That’s one lesson four Geisinger Commonwealth School of Medicine students will never forget.

Under the direction of Dr. Alison Brodginski, Northeast director of infectious diseases, the students set out on a required quality improvement project that would change how they view their approach to medicine.

Teamwork makes the dream work

Together, student researchers Sergey Gnilopyat, Rick Hiciano, Amalie Kropp Lopez and Noah Lieberman looked at ways to improve patient safety. How? By reducing central-line associated bloodstream infections (CLABSI). 

Central lines are used in hospitals to deliver medication intravenously over time. They’re also a common source of infections in hospitalized patients.

It’s all about the details

Student researchers analyzed patient data on central lines maintained at Geisinger Wyoming Valley’s progressive care unit. After looking at data more closely, Sergey Gniopyat found that compliance with the central line maintenance bundle, a checklist of things needed to care for patients with central lines, needed some improvement. Then he got to work, rallying the care team. 

“Because care for patients with a central line involves an interprofessional team, maintenance bundle compliance requires a system approach,” he said. 

While getting everyone on the care team can be challenging, he notes that using a systems view helps work through any hurdles that come with that process.

Small changes can spell big improvements

Through posted signs in patient rooms, the students reminded team members of the proper procedure for preventing infections. Those visual cues help remind team members of every step in the process. Since putting them up, the number of central line infections has decreased.

Student researcher Rick Hiciano credits these posters with streamlining the process, ultimately improving patient care. “I learned that big changes can come from simple, easy and often overlooked methods,” he notes.

A transformative experience

The research experience has been invaluable for Sergey, who hopes to go into internal medicine. 

Student researcher Amalie “Molly” Kropp Lopez agreed, noting that the project taught her about the impact even small changes, like hanging a sign, can have on patients.

Student research Noah Liberman credits this project for showing him the importance of working together and adapting to the challenges that research can sometimes uncover. He’s grateful for that experience, calling it “an arduous but very worthwhile process.”

The students’ research was presented at Geisinger Commonwealth’s annual Quality Improvement Project Symposium on June 21. The students noted that while they observed an increase in maintenance bundle compliance, a more extensive study is needed.

an image of 4 student researchers