Washington health System residents

When it comes to finding the best in local hospital care, many might consider seeking treatment at Washington Health System (WHS) to be a no brainer. Not just for its access to state-of-the-art medical advances led by an award-winning staff of physicians, nurses and other healthcare providers, but also because of the commitment WHS has pledged to teaching the healthcare leaders of tomorrow.

“At a teaching institution like The Washington Hospital, there are physician learners working in the hospital,” said Lauren O’Brien, MD, Associate Director of the Washington Health System Family Medicine Residency Program. “After completing medical school and earning either a medical degree (MD) or a degree as a doctor of osteopathy (DO), physicians must complete a residency program prior to being allowed to practice independently and being eligible for board certification. Most residencies are three years long, but may be seven or more years of additional training, depending on the medical specialty.”

Family medicine physicians must complete a three year residency training program, and in a teaching institution setting like WHS Washington Hospital. Patients may be treated by a medical team that includes medical students, resident physicians and attending physicians.

The Family Medicine Residency Program at WHS was founded in 1971 and is one of the oldest programs in Pennsylvania, having successfully taught more than 250 board certified family physicians since its inception. The program has provided residents with in-depth training that has enabled them to pursue successful careers not only in family medicine, but also as hospitalists, emergency room physicians, collegiate medicine, and fellowships in sports medicine, obstetrics and gynecology.

As the only physician training program in the hospital, the WHS Family Medicine Residency Program not only educates resident physicians, but also works with medical students. The program is affiliated with The University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, Pennsylvania State University School of Medicine, Drexel University, Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine, West Virginia University School of Medicine, and Temple University.

At Washington Health System, all of the faculty physicians of the Family Medicine Residency Program are board certified physicians who stay up to date on the latest advances in medicine and provide excellent patient care by practicing evidence-based medicine, a concept that aims to increase the use of high quality clinical research in clinical decision making. It’s a practice that requires lifelong learning keeping up to the current literature.

“By educating family medicine resident physicians, we have been able to provide the Washington area with well-educated, caring family physicians” Dr. O’Brien noted. “In fact, many of the family physicians in Washington County trained at WHS.”

The WHS Family Medicine Residency Program requires that residents get experience in both inpatient and outpatient medicine. This dual role was fairly typical for primary care physicians in the past but has become increasingly rare. Instead, according to Dr. O’Brien, many physicians have shifted to an exclusive outpatient practice while allowing hospitalist physicians to care for their patients when they are admitted to the hospital.

“The Washington Health System Family Medicine Residency Program provides great continuity of care by caring for our patients in both the inpatient and outpatient settings,” Dr. O’Brien noted. “We see our patients when they are admitted to WHS and several skilled nursing facilities. The concept of continuity across all levels of care helps create a lasting patient-physician bond. This familiarity allows the patient and his or her physician to actively work together to make mutual decisions regarding the patient’s ongoing health care.”

There are a number of benefits to seeking treatment at a teaching hospital. Patients who seek care in a teaching facility like WHS Washington Hospital are afforded access to the expertise of accomplished faculty of physicians 24/7. According to the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), teaching hospitals also provide a higher quality of care and decreased length of stay over non-teaching hospitals. Additionally, teaching hospitals have a lower mortality rate than non-teaching hospitals.

“Every time a patient is seen by a resident physician, that resident will discuss the patient’s care with the faculty physician,” Dr. O’Brien said. “Together, they are able to deliver the highest quality of advanced care to our patients, using the latest in evidence-based medicine practices.”

Resident training has evolved significantly over the years. “The Washington Health System boasts a state-of-the-art simulation center in which resident physicians are able to train with simulators,” Dr. O’Brien noted. “In the simulation center, resident physicians are able to practice complicated procedures and hone their skills that are helpful in the everyday care of our patients. Unlike the old days of massive textbooks and hundreds of medical journals, physicians in practice today have immediate electronic access to medical information. This allows for faster and more current evidence-based care for our patients.”

The Family Medicine Residency Program at WHS provides resident physicians with hands-on, comprehensive family medicine training. Family physicians are trained to provide well and sick care of infants, children, adolescents, adults and geriatric patients. WHS residents also receive specialty training in pediatrics, obstetrics and gynecological care, sports medicine, orthopedics, and minor skin procedures.

According to Dr. O’Brien, all physicians must complete a residency program prior to practicing independently; however, not all practicing physicians perform all of the things they were trained to do during their residencies. However, all three locations of the Family Medicine Residency Program at Washington Health System (Washington, Canonsburg, and Cecil) provide complete family medicine care that includes all of the above-mentioned services.

Canonsburg is the newest of those locations, having just celebrated the grand opening of its new location at 100 S. Central Ave. on Dec. 3, 2018. There are four faculty physicians who see patients there, as well as six residents, two from each training year. They see an average of 1,100 patients per month in the single-story, 10,600 square-foot building that contains 14 exam rooms and two procedure rooms, offers on-site laboratory tests and free parking for patients.

“Because of the broad spectrum of family medicine, family physicians at WHS are able to accommodate the needs of our patients and their communities as they grow and change,” Dr. O’Brien said. “In addition, having all of our patients’ care take place in one location enables our physicians to ensure that patients are receiving comprehensive, preventative care, including required vaccines and guideline-directed, age appropriate cancer screenings.”

The Cecil office is located at 3415 Millers Run Road, and the Washington office location is in the Neighborhood Health Center at 95 Leonard Ave., Building 2, Suite 200.

“Physicians at our community office locations also serve on the faculty of WHS and share our vested interest in shaping our healthcare leaders of tomorrow. Our goal is for Washington Health System Family Medicine to provide the highest quality medical care to our patients in a timely, professional, and pleasant manner,” Dr. O’Brien said. “We try to exceed the expectations of our patients by providing thorough, accessible and complete medical care for acute injuries and illnesses, chronic diseases, and preventative health maintenance.”