The Other Side of the Bed @ VA Boston

The Other Side of the Bed at Veterans Affairs Boston Healthcare System

Program Directors: Michael E. Charness, M.D., Chief of Staff

Cecilia McVey, MSN, MHA, CAN, Associate Director for Nursing/Patient Care Services


Program is designed to give students a paid opportunity to participate directly and intensively in the care of veteran patients during the summer after their first year of medical school. Accepted students are hired for the summer as health technicians at the VA Boston Healthcare System. Students undergo four days of intensive orientation and training to learn skills and responsibilities of a health tech on a nursing unit. They are assigned to a nurse mentor on the unit of their choice at the West Roxbury Campus:

• Medical

• Surgical

• spinal cord injury

• medical intensive care

• coronary care

• surgical intensive care

• progressive care

• emergency

During their two-month service, medical student-health techs engage in direct patient care, and learn a multitude of skills:

• patient assessment

• determination of vital signs

• patient hygiene & feeding

• repositioning and wound care

• placement and monitoring of catheters, IV lines and feeding tubes

• suctioning and respiratory care and care of tracheostomies

• blood drawing

• recording of EKGs

Students attend weekly lectures about a wide array of practical topics such as how to talk to dying patients, physician-nurse collaboration, and patient safety. Upon completion of this program, students will increase their comfort level in direct patient care, learn valuable skills that are not taught directly in medical school, and gain an increased appreciation of the important role that nurses play as part of a multidisciplinary healthcare team.