A day in the life of a clinician educator: Dr. Walther N.K.A. van Mook

By Jamiu Busari (@jobusar)

Walther N.K.A. van Mook
Internist/intensivist
Department of Intensive Care Medicine, Postgraduate dean, Maastricht University Medical Center
Professor of medical education, Maastricht University
Maastricht, The Netherlands.

As a clinician educator in the Netherlands, Walther N.K.A. van Mook splits his time between Maastricht University Medical Center and Maastricht University.  New responsibilities have forced him to temporarily increase his workload, but the effects of his work on patient care make these efforts worthwhile.

Meet Dr. van Mook

When Prof. Dr. van Mook started his basic five year residency training , his primary goal was to become a gastroenterologist. However, in the last year of his general residency training, during his rotation in intensive care medicine (which he “enormously enjoyed”) he was offered and accepted a fellowship position to train as an intensivist. After several months he was asked to apply for a staff position. In 2002, after completing the two year fellowship training, he joined the department of intensive care medicine in the Maastricht University Medical Centre in the Netherlands, where he currently practices as a clinician and educator. In 2011, he completed his PhD on Professionalism in Under- and Postgraduate Medical Education.

60/40 split between clinical and teaching activities

Dr. van Mook spends about 60 per cent of his time in clinical teaching and supervision of fellows, junior doctors and students. Apart from lecturing and giving workshops, he also spends a lot of time on other educational activities that include international collaborations in medical education (e.g. in Mozambique, Ghana, Saudi Arabia), and delivering specific teach-the-teacher training (e.g. on workplace based assessment, problem residents). Prof. Dr. van Mook also chairs the Committee on Professional Behavior of the Faculty of Medicine and is past deputy-chair of the Progress Test Assessment Committee. He is the contemporary director for postgraduate medical training in the Maastricht University Medical Centre, with a full professorship in this field and intensive care medicine.

The other half of his time is spent in clinical-oriented activities (i.e. 20 per cent patient care and 30 per cent management). He is also the coordinating specialist physician for organ donation in the South and Middle Limburg provinces of the Netherlands.

“I really enjoy my work both the clinical and educational activities, and currently would not like to stop with either one of them,” says Prof. Dr. van Mook. “In that regard, I would consider myself to be an all-round clinician educator. Some of the activities I am engaged in include the supervision of PhD projects both in educational and clinical research. These range from organ donation and pulmonary infection in intensive care unit, to studies regarding e.g. cultural differences regarding the perception of professional behavior.”

Going the extra mile

Energy and enthusiasm are rarely lacking when talking to and working with Prof. van Mook. Yet, he finds that time management has become a problem (for him), since each of the responsibilities above demands more time and effort than time allocated for them.  He is now in the process of formally expanding the educational activities, so that his clinical shifts in the ICU can be correspondingly decreased in frequency.

“Even so, I believe that the extra effort will contribute to the quality of regional patient care, as well as expand my experience, which makes it acceptable and worthwhile going the extra mile.”

Lessons learned

  • Medical education is a valuable and interesting field to work in and to research.
  • A choice of a physician to specialize in medical education can contribute to his/her career opportunities.
  • The perceived urgency of issues that are faced commonly differs between educationalists and intensive care physicians, except for certain unprofessional behavior reports.

Tell us about a day in your life as a clinician educator. Contact us at icenet@royalcollege.ca