Jones & Bartlett Learning Health Blog

    8 Student Assignments to Help You Navigate Politics in the Classroom

    Posted by Sophie Teague on Feb 18, 2017 7:53:19 AM

    By Sharon Buchbinder, RN, PhD
    Author of Introduction to Health Care Management, 3rd Edition

    As we roll into the second month of a new administration in Washington, D.C., many of our previously held beliefs are being challenged on all levels. Therefore, it should come as no surprise when these politics and the accompanying feelings flow into our classrooms and discussion boards. How can we as healthcare management educators help our students to process these events and emotions?

    WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 22: Health-care reform advocates march in the streets outside of a meeting of America's Health Insurance Plans (AHIP) on October 22, 2009 in Washington, DC.; Shutterstock ID 39745732; PO: JBL Marketing; Job: JBL Marketing; Client: JBL; Other: Robert Boder

    We must give our students assignments that demand the use of critical thinking skills. And use the roiling waters of politics as our inspiration. The following are some examples of how to do this across the curriculum.

    Assignment for a Healthcare Financial Management Course:

    You are the director of the emergency department in an inner city hospital. Three blocks from your hospital is a large Planned Parenthood (PP) facility. As a healthcare manager, you know PP provides a significant number of primary care services to the female and male population in your catchment area. Although you’ve seen the protests, you’ve been so busy putting out fires in your department, you really haven’t given it much thought. That is, until your weekly one on one with your Service Line VP, when she turns to you and says, “I want a report on the impact of the potential closure of the PP on our ED—and I need it on my desk in 48 hours.” Based on a worst case scenario with the PP facility being completely shut down, provide a detailed list of services you anticipate will be in demand along with an estimates of costs for providing these services. 

    Assignment for an Epidemiological Management Course, Part A.

    Part A. In 2020, the federal government’s Committee on Vaccine Safety announces there is no longer any need for vaccines. States have the option to abolish or keep their vaccination laws. Assuming your state legislators decide to remove vaccination laws from the books, using CDC and other data, provide estimates of outbreaks for the following diseases: Measles, Mumps, Rubella, Polio, Diphtheria, Pertussis, or Ebola.

    Assignment for an Epidemiological Management Course, Part B.

    Using the World Health Organization’s Methods and Data Sources for Global Burden of Disease Estimates, 2000-2015 (January, 2017), provide estimates of mortality and morbidity to the citizens in your state, including loss of productivity, years of life lost, and disability adjusted years.

     Assignment for a Healthcare Policy Course

    You are a staffer working for a Senator A. He wishes to repeal The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, or ACA. He wants to replace it with something “better.” The Senator has lots of years on the Hill and is a consummate politician, but is not an expert on healthcare. He relies on your expertise as a healthcare policy expert to keep him up to speed. He is also a very busy man. Prepare a two page memo for your boss describing the ACA in simple terms and providing suggestions for improving the plan—without repealing the ACA.

    Assignment for a Healthcare Policy Course

    You are a staffer working for Senator B who wishes to repeal The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, or ACA. A states’ rights advocate, Senator B wants to completely abolish the ACA and let the states take care of their own. Senator B also has lots of years on the Hill and is a consummate politician, and thinks he is an expert on healthcare—but isn’t. Senator B is also a very busy man and he needs to get his proposal through the naysayers. Prepare a two page memo for your boss with benefits and costs to states of providing healthcare to their citizens at the same level as the ACA.

    Assignment for a Human Resources Course

    You are the VP for Human Resources (HR) at an inner city hospital. You have been diligent in collecting all the documents for employment for all of your hires, including proof of citizenship or a green card. This morning U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) informed you that it will be making a sweep next week as your employees leave work on each shift. To the best of your knowledge, all your employees are safe and this will be a waste of ICE’s time. With legal counsel present, you convene an emergency meeting with all the department heads to advise them of the upcoming sweep. The VP of Nursing is incensed, the VP of Facilities goes pale and the Director of Spiritual Services begins to weep. You are puzzled that these three services directors are most affected by the news. You did your job, what is their problem? Using the Case Study Format, provide a 2-3 page analysis of this scenario.

    Assignment for a Strategic Planning Course

    You are the VP for Strategic Planning and Business Development at a 400 bed community hospital in an affluent suburb of a major metropolitan area. Among other great services, your organization has a world renowned birthing center, a center for excellence in cancer care, outstanding ambulatory surgery services, and a nationally recognized hospice program. Your job is to gaze into the crystal ball and foresee how the following will impact these services at your institution and create a SWOT analysis.

    • Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security are cut by 50%.
    • The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, or ACA, has been replaced with Medical Savings Accounts.
    • Vaccinations have been abolished in the state.
    • H.R. 586, Sanctity of Human Life and H.R. 816, Life at Conception Act have become law.


    Assignment for a Strategic Planning Course

    You are the CEO of a 50 bed rural hospital. You are having a terrible time recruiting nurses and physicians to work for you. It was never easy, but ever since the Immigration Halt of 2020, your job has gotten even harder. Add to that the fact that the ACA is a distant memory, states now pay for healthcare, and vaccinations have been abolished, and things keep getting tougher. The locally owned family farms are gone, replaced by massive agri-businesses, which have opened their own employee clinics. The agri-businesses send you patients when their mid-level practitioners can’t handle them. Sometimes you get tourists who get sick on their way to see Mt. Rushmore, but you can’t depend on them to keep the lights on. Your next meeting with the Board of Directors, which now includes the CEOs of the agri-businesses is tonight. Due to all of the above, you have decided the hospital is no longer a going concern. You are going to propose closing the hospital. Prepare a one page memo to this BOD outlining your plan and timeline for shutting the doors.

    As healthcare management educators, we are obligated to prepare our students to be flexible and to be responsive to changes in the environment. By incorporating assignments based on the political realm, we can prepare our students to not only be better healthcare managers, but better citizens.

    Sharon 2015 Head Shot_rev 5-3-16_CompSharon Buchbinder is Professor and Program Coordinator for the MS in Healthcare Management at Stevenson University in the Graduate and Professional School and former chair of the Association of University Programs in Health Administration (AUPHA). She is also the author of three books from Jones & Bartlett: Introduction to Health Care Management, Cases in Health Care Management, and Career Opportunities in Health Care Management.

    Here are some resources if you are interested in this topic:

    Aiken, L. H., Clarke, S. P., Cheung, R. B., Sloane, D. M., & Silber, J. H. (2003). Educational levels of hospital nurses and surgical patient mortality. Journal of the American Medical Association, 290 (12), 1617–1623.

    Aiken, L. H., Clarke, S. P., Sloane, D. M., Sochalski, J., & Silber, J. H. (2002). Hospital nurse staffing and patient mortality, nurse burnout, and job dissatisfaction. Journal of the American Medical Association, 288 (16), 1987–1993.

    Beck, J. (2017, January 10). Trump meets with vaccine skeptic, discusses 'Committee on Vaccine Safety'

    Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). (2016a). Glossary: Community immunity.

    Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). (2016b). Pertussis.

    Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). (2016c). Vaccine Safety Datalink (VSD).

    Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). (2016d). Weekly US map: Influenza summary updated.

    Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). (2016e). Measles cases and outbreaks.

    Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). (2016f). The road to zero: CDC’s response to the West African Ebola epidemic, 2014-2015. Retrieved from

    Corwin, T. (2015, Nov 22). Looming doctor shortage threatens care: Specialties, underserved areas will be first affected as physician totals drop. Retrieved from

    Dornhelm, R. (Producer). (2015, January 14). Worst pertussis outbreak in 70 years, but what can state health officials do? California Healthline [Audio podcast].

    Global Polio Eradication. (13 September 2016).  Data and monitoring: Polio this week.

    Grant, R. (2016, Feb 3). The U.S. is running out of nurses. Retrieved from

    Halsall, P. (1998, July). Modern History Sourcebook: Lady Mary Wortley Montagu (1689-1762): Smallpox Vaccination in Turkey.

    Hilliard, T. M. & Boulton, M.L. (2012) Public health workforce research in review: A 25-year retrospective. Am J Prev Med, 42 (5S1):S17–S28.

    Link, K. (2005). Vaccine Controversy: The History, Use, and Safety of Vaccinations. Westport, CT: Praeger.

    Mishoe, S. (2004). Crisis is looming in allied health professions. Retrieved from

    O’Malley, A.S., Bond, A.M., & Berenson, R.A. (2011, August). Rising hospital employment of physicians: Better quality, higher cost? Center for Studying Health System Change, Issue Brief No. 136.

    RETRACTED: Wakefield, A.J., Murch, S.H., Anthony, A., Linnell, J., Casson, D.M., Malik, M., Berelowitz, M., Dhillon, A.P., Thomson, M.A., Harvey, P., Valentine, A., Davies, S.E., & Walker-Smith, J.A. (1998, February). Ileal-lymphoid-nodular hyperplasia, non-specific colitis, and pervasive developmental disorder in children. The Lancet 28:351 (9103) pp. 637-641 DOI: 10.1016/S0140-6736(97)11096-0)

    Stern, A.M. & Markel, H. (2005). The history of vaccines and immunization: Familiar patterns, new challenges. Health Affairs, 24:3 pp. 611-621. doi: 10.1377/hlthaff.24.3.611

    Southern Illinois School of Medicine. (2012, October 30). Overview of Potential Agents of Biological Terrorism.

    Wheelis, M. Biological warfare at the 1346 siege of Caffa. (2002, September). Emerg Infect Dis [serial online]

    World Health Organization. (WHO). (2017, January) World Health Organization’s Methods and Data Sources for Global Burden of Disease Estimates, 2000-2015

    Topics: ACA, Sharon Buchbinder Blog, Classroom Assignments, Trump Administration

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