While healthcare is not always considered an industry by most doctors and nurses, it is certainly an important element of every nation’s gross domestic product. Insights into costs, operations and organizational structures are typically not included in a medical curriculum. However, sooner or later every doctor will be confronted with the business-like elements of their medical profession.
Nyenrode Business University is surrounded by two academic hospitals in the Amsterdam region, where thousands of students and other healthcare professionals are trained every day. It was, therefore, a logical choice to explore the possibility of contributing to medical students’ education by adding bits and pieces of management training to their medical curriculum.
A public-private Initiative
Since Nyenrode is a private university and academic hospitals are part of larger state-run universities, finding common financial ground was a challenge. At the same time, from the very start, educating medical students was considered an activity that was meant to achieve social impact and not profit. We ultimately managed to fit into a payment scheme developed between Dutch universities to accommodate student exchange at minor level. Because the total number of credits for a minor is 24 ECTS, this affects the curriculum as a whole and therefore must be assessed by two different exam committees at two different institutions in the same way.
Bridge the differences
Four years ago, our exam committee and the committee from VU Academic medical centre in Amsterdam put forth a significant effort to bridge the differences and make this public-private initiative possible, offering the students a unique minor in a different non-medical field. Now I see small groups of approximately 15 to 20 Bachelor-level medical students joining our classes on campus and gaining basic knowledge in business statistics, organizational behaviour, finance, economics, strategy and more. These students have been selected by their own medical school and our program management. Although their initial training and ambitions differ, they blend in seamlessly with our business students during – and sometimes even after – their time at Nyenrode.
This initiative is obviously not about turning doctors into business entrepreneurs but is instead about giving medical students insight into business-related knowledge and providing them with leadership skills that may be helpful once they return to medicine. Even so, some students decide to pursue their Master in Business Administration at our university. The gap between finishing a Bachelor’s degree and starting a Master’s program at medical school is sometimes a whole year, which allows these students to stay with us without falling behind on their initial study path. Since this initiative is unique in the Netherlands, we were unsure of what to expect and therefore the feedback from VUmc was important for us. As it turns out, the experience within a business environment was very much appreciated by students as well as VUmc itself. The typical business school knowledge will not have an immediate impact on the students’ medical studies or career, of course, but exploring a new field and having the opportunity to work on their personal leadership and development produced noticeable and very positive results.
New areas of knowledge
Although this cooperation is taking place between institutions, its launch was only possible thanks to personal connections, interest in each other’s expertise and respect for diversity in knowledge. Bridging different fields and combining different institutions and their knowledge can be very beneficial to students, but this kind of initiative is surprisingly difficult to arrange. That being said, this case shows that cooperation between private and public institutions is possible even if the fields of expertise are completely different. In fact, we feel that integrating knowledge in this way not only brings benefits to students focusing on medicine, engineering, IT and the arts but may also sow the seeds for entirely new areas of knowledge and professional expertise.