Evaluating a Sleep Medicine ‘Boot Camp’ to Improve Knowledge, Core Curriculum


Anita Shelgikar, MD, MHPE, discussed a recent study from which data suggested a statistically significant improvement in sleep medicine knowledge following a 2-day introductory course.

Anita Shelgikar, MD, MHPE, clinical associate professor of neurology, and director, Sleep Medicine Fellowship Program, University of Michigan

Anita Shelgikar, MD, MHPE

A recent study investigated the efficacy of a sleep medicine “boot camp” in a group of health professions trainees, finding that a 2-day course elicited a statistically significant improvement in both the Assessment of Sleep Knowledge in Medical Education Survey (2.9 points [±2.1]; P = .004) and Dartmouth Sleep Knowledge and Attitude Survey (2.5 points [± 3.0]; P = .001) for all 21 participants post-study. Investigators further found that there was not difference in degree of improvement when comparing results from sleep medicine fellows (n = 14) with other health professions trainees (n = 7). 

To learn more about the study findings, as well as the current state of sleep medicine education in medical school, we sat down with Anita Shelgikar, MD, MHPE, clinical associate professor of neurology, and director, Sleep Medicine Fellowship Program, University of Michigan. Shelgikar outlined the study motivations, which were primarily geared towards establishing a core curriculum for sleep medicine fellows upon entering their fellowship. 

In conversation with NeurologyLive®, Shelgikar further commented on the importance of sleep medicine education, particularly when providing collaborative, comprehensive care for patients. She also provided her thoughts on areas for improvement in sleep medicine education, noting that the field is interdisciplinary by nature. 

NeurologyLive®: What were the motivations behind this study? 

Anita Shelgikar, MD, MHPE: The motivations behind this study were really to establish a core curriculum for sleep medicine fellows that are entering their 1 year of sleep medicine fellowship training. When the investigators initiated this core curriculum, they brought in and invited other health professionals to attend as well, to broaden the scope of who received that knowledge.

What were the key findings? Were any surprising in any way?

[Investigators] looked at a presurvey and then a postsurvey. Of all the attendees to the course, they issued surveys to assess their knowledge of the content before and after the course. There were 21 health professions trainees who attended, and of those, 14 were sleep medicine fellows that were about to start their sleep medicine fellowship. They did find a statistically significant difference in the assessment of sleep knowledge in the medical education survey. That was really great to see, that even with this intensive, few-day course, that there can be an improvement in sleep medicine knowledge for all attendees—sleep medicine fellows and other health professions trainees.

In your opinion, why is sleep medicine knowledge important for all health profession trainees?

Sleep medicine education is important for anyone in any health profession because our patients with sleep disorders see our colleagues in health professions throughout their journey in health care. So, it's really important that people at different points in our health care system—our colleagues, dentistry, nursing, medicine—that everyone has a recognition and awareness of sleep disorders so that we can best help our mutual patients when they present with sleep related concerns.

What is currently being taught about sleep medicine in medical school? How might it be improved? 

Currently, sleep medicine education is a small portion of what's covered in medical school education. There are obviously so many topics that need to be covered for medical students, and sleep medicine is [taught as] a portion of the neurology and sometimes the respiratory curricula that are presented to medical students, and sometimes as part of the clinical education in those early years of medical school as well.

It would be great if we could broaden exposure not only of the neuroanatomy and the underlying physiology that underlies normal, healthy sleep, and also disordered sleep, but really increase the awareness and understanding of clinical sleep disorders as well, so that we can, again, better assess and evaluate patients who have sleep related concerns and then initiate treatment when we do diagnose and confirm sleep disorders in our patients of all ages.

I'm not one of the study authors, but I could say that the 14 individuals who are sleep medicine fellows I think had been self-selected. They are choosing to do dedicated sleep medicine training that they certainly have expressed and committed to an interest in pursuing further sleep medicine education. I think it really speaks to the fact that there were other participants from a wide variety of health professions education that also chose to attend this course and to enhance their knowledge about sleep medicine. I think that really speaks to the interest and applicability of sleep medicine education in all health professions education.

What are the next steps to ensure that this knowledge continues to be provided in training?

I think this study shows that even with intensive 2-day course, we can make a difference in terms of people's awareness and understanding of sleep medicine, and some of the foundational principles within sleep medicine and the clinical care of patients with sleep disorders. I think this provides a nice example for a way that other programs could incorporate something similar, and now in our era of virtual interactions and virtual learning, there's an opportunity for resource sharing as well. Hopefully, this becomes easier for programs and institutions to build these sorts of curricula and share them with colleagues in all health professions education. It provides a nice example and a platform upon which we could build to enhance sleep medicine education across health professions.

Is there anything else you would like to add?

I think this study really highlights the opportunity to collaborate across disciplines. Sleep medicine at its core is an interdisciplinary field, and I think this really highlights that even early on in one's trajectory through training, whether it's in medicine or other health professions education, that there's really an opportunity in sleep medicine to collaborate and learn together and to treat our collective mutual patients together. I think there's really an opportunity here to build as a community of sleep medicine clinicians and providers to provide the best care we can for our patients.

Transcript edited for clarity.

Wappel SR, Scharf SM, Cohen L, et al. Improving sleep medicine education among health professions trainees. J Clin Sleep Med. 2021;17(12):2461-2466. doi:10.5664/jcsm.9456
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