Putting Our Steps to Practice: Practical Advice for Publishing Medical Education Scholarship

Writing medical education scholarship for publication is a rewarding opportunity for clinician-educators. However, it can also be challenging to know the proper format or steps needed to take curricular changes to the next level. To supplement our Academic Medicine Last Page, “Propelling Educational Innovations to Publication in Five steps,” my coauthors have provided practical guidance, described by each of the 5 steps outlined in the infographic, to help readers learn from our collective experience.  

Michael S Ryan, MD, MEHP, Department of Pediatrics, Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine

I believe preparation (Step 1) is the key to success.  When my colleagues and I identify the author order from the start, we get manuscripts submitted much sooner.  The group can then agree upon where the innovation could be published and the lead author can review submission guidelines, generate a timeline, and divide the workload.  The senior author can check in between meetings to keep authors on task.  Identifying a shared mental model early on about the message also leads to more a uniform writing style which in turn improves the efficiency and success of the process.

Meg G. Keeley, MD, Department of Pediatrics, University of Virginia School of Medicine

When I’m writing, I find it’s critically important to consider “who cares?” (part of Step 2: Problem) It helps to think about who else (beyond my study team members!) may care about this problem and our solutions. The idea is to craft writing in a way that will speak vividly to key stakeholders who can then implement it in their setting or modify or study it further. Addressing the “who cares?” question goes a long way to show the importance and extend the reach of your medical education innovation.

Terry Kind, MD, MPH, Department of Pediatrics, Children’s National Hospital, The George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences

As medical educators, we tend to be solution-oriented, so arriving at the solution (Step 3) can be exciting! Before we jump in with both feet, however, it is helpful to approach the innovation that can solve the problem we identify in a systematic fashion. For example, asking why the solution we’ve found applies to the problem we define in the previous step is crucial. Once we see a good fit, we can begin to examine the solution more closely. A closer look at an optimal solution for our problem can help us visualize where else this solution can be applied.

T Jirasevijinda, MD. Department of Pediatrics, Weill Cornell Medical College. 

Implementation (Step 4) means peeling apart the layers of the innovation to get to the “how” of it. I focus on describing the numbers and the characteristics of the population. My description of the setting helps the reader appreciate both the locale(s) and the context(s). A rich description includes the impacts of resources, facilitators, and barriers. Finally, I describe how the timing of the innovation strengthens or detracts from the implementation. These practical descriptions allow the reader to consider similarities and differences that may impact their own implementation with a novel population, context, or time. 

Mary Rocha, MD, MPH, Department of Pediatrics, Texas Children’s Hospital, Baylor College of Medicine

Although this is listed as the final step, I consider reflection (Step 5) to be very important in the initial planning especially when I think of the impact of my work. So, in an iterative manner, I think about how for instance, my intervention’s effectiveness can be measured, and, though it may not be the most reassuring part of the “next-steps” and reflective critique process, I must ask “so what”? Thinking about such prompts of inquiry in an iterative manner helps me plan my innovation for future scholarship and refine it for ultimate publication.

Caroline R. Paul MD, Department of Pediatrics, University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health

Further Reading

Ryan MS, Kind T, Jirasevijinda TJ, Paul CR, Keeley MG, Rocha MEM. Propelling educational innovations to publication in five steps. Acad Med. 2020;95:1779.