Improving the learning environment across McGill’s academic health network

Following a retreat in October 2018 that brought close to 200 clinicians, educators, administrators and academic leaders from McGill’s academic health network together, the McGill Faculty of Medicine has outlined next steps to improve the clinical learning environment for health profession trainees.

The goal: fostering a safe, supportive and stimulating learning environment that promotes learner vitality and recognizes excellence in teaching. It is important that a great learning environment is great for learners and great for teachers.

What is the learning environment?

The Faculty defines the learning environment as the diverse physical locations, contexts and cultures in which its students and residents learn. This refers to the physical space, but also to educational content and approaches, safety and respect, and the overall wellness of students, faculty and staff.

The Faculty’s learning environment consists of many academic and clinical settings on and off the Island of Montreal, spanning 63% of the province. These include the CIUSSS Montreal West Island, CIUSSS West-Central Montreal, McGill University Health Centre (MUHC) and additional sites across the larger RUIS McGill network.

Close collaboration with McGill’s partners

The October retreat was jointly organized by the Vice Dean Education Annette Majnemer and the Faculty’s education leaders from the CIUSSS Montreal West Island (Renée Proulx), CIUSSS West-Central Montreal (Cindy Starnino) and the MUHC (Elene Khalil).

Leading up to the retreat, participants from McGill and the academic health network were asked to reflect on three themes: learner wellness, clinical supervision, and teaching performance and recognition.

On the day of the retreat, they developed actionable solutions around each, which were subsequently reviewed and refined by the Faculty’s Learning Environment Action Panel (LEAP).

The 19-member LEAP, chaired by Dr. Majnemer, is mandated by the Faculty to optimize the learning environment for students and residents in medicine, nursing, occupational therapy, physical therapy and speech language pathology.

Next steps: from ideas to action

The enriching discussions during the retreat yielded both priorities and preliminary steps, and implementation is underway.

  • Clinical supervision: retreat participants agreed that expectations for supervision need to be clarified and communicated. Information on current standards for clinical supervision will be collected with the aim of more systematically integrating these expectations into orientation on an ongoing basis.

An inventory of clinical supervision training opportunities will also be created with the potential for a toolkit that can be utilized across McGill’s academic health network.

  • Teaching performance and recognition: teaching evaluations will be reviewed, and the processes in which this information is used will be determined. A recognition committee now exists as part of the Education Strategic Plan, and met on February 7 to refine ideas on teacher recognition, including financial awards and faculty acknowledgements. A communications plan is underway to enhance recognition of educational excellence as well.
  • Learner wellness remains an important issue and is an ongoing priority of the WELL Office. Faculty wellness has recently become a focus of Academic Affairs, and mistreatment is currently a standing item on LEAP meeting agendas.

The agenda, themes and presentations from the October retreat are available online.

The McGill Academic Health Network Retreat – Learning Environment was the third in a series launched by the McGill Faculty of Medicine in the spring of 2017 to collaboratively advance academic excellence in the clinical environment. For more information about the three retreats visit:

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