Jones & Bartlett Learning Health Blog

    5 Classroom Assignments That Revive the Art of Letter Writing

    Posted by Sophie Teague on Apr 14, 2017 2:05:27 PM

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

    Once upon a time, before computers, Internet, email, and texting, there was something known as the “letter.” This ancient form of communication provided people who did not live near one another the opportunity to share news and feelings. When I was a child <cough, cough> a hundred years ago, I had a pen pal. We sent letters back and forth, each trying to outdo the other with our creativity. Now those letters and postage stamps have been replaced with OMG! ROFL! TTYL! and unlimited data plans for all household members with opposable thumbs.

    Good letter writing is both an art and a science. An art because the letter writer must decide what to select as the topic. Allen Sherman’s Camp Granada is a famous example of a letter written by a child to his parents. On a more serious note, Abigail Adams was perhaps one of our most prolific first ladies who wrote letters on topics ranging from advice to her son to urging her husband to consider the rights of women. Letter writing is a science, because the author should be able to support his or her statements with data. This is precisely why I believe it is time to resuscitate letter writing in our curricula.

    As noted in my last blog post, as healthcare management educators we are obligated to prepare our students to be responsive to changes in the environment. Part of being responsive is being responsible and engaged citizens. Letter writing assignments demand the use of critical thinking skills, as well as the ability to respond to a potential public relations disaster, such as we have seen lately with United Airlines. The following are some examples of how to utilize letter writing in some of our courses in our curriculum.

    1. Assignment for Quality Management/Patient Safety Course Discussion Boards

    Part A: Stakeholder Letter to a CEO

    Find a news item online that demonstrates a healthcare organization’s lack of patient-centric behavior. Write a 1-2 page (250-500 words) letter, with citations, to the CEO of the organization advocating for patient-centered care, patient safety systems, and patient involvement in healthcare organizations. Post the letter, the link to the article, and references in APA format in this Discussion Forum.

    (I suggest a two to three week interval between Parts A and B to allow time for feedback to the students and for them to incorporate instructor suggestions in the next assignment.)

    Part B: Letter from the CEO to the Stakeholder

    Using another student’s letter to a CEO from the previous Discussion Board, put yourself in the position of the CEO and respond to the concerns in that letter. In a 1-2 page (250-500 words) letter, describe what steps the organization has taken to rectify the situation, what preventive measures have been taken to ensure this situation never occurs again, and what other policies and procedures have been instituted to restore trust in the healthcare organization.

    2. Assignment for an Epidemiological Management Course Discussion Boards

    Part A. Letter from Consumer to CEO

    Using the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention List of Selected Multistate Foodborne Outbreak Investigations, select a recent outbreak and compose a 1-2 page (250-500 words) letter, to the CEO of the restaurant, retailer or wholesaler of the food from a consumer impacted by the foodborne illness. Post the letter with citations, the link to the selected outbreak, and references in APA format in this Discussion Forum.

    (I suggest a two to three week interval between Parts A and B to allow time for feedback to the students and for them to incorporate instructor suggestions in the next assignment.)

    Part B. Letter from the CEO to the Consumer

    Using another student’s letter to a CEO from the Discussion Board, put yourself in the position of the CEO and respond to the concerns in the consumer’s letter. In a 1-2 page (250-500 words) letter, describe what steps the organization has taken to rectify the situation, what preventive measures have been taken to ensure this situation never occurs again, and what other policies and procedures have been instituted to restore trust in the organization.

    3. Assignment for a Healthcare Policy Course Discussion Board

    Once again, efforts are underway to repeal The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, or ACA. Compose a 1-2 page (250-500 words) letter with citations and references supporting your position describing why you are either against or in favor of this effort. Find the Senators and Congressmen who represent your district. Address your letter to one of them and post it in this week’s Discussion Board.

    4. Assignment for a Human Resources Course

    You are the supervisor of an employee who is chronically late to work. You have met with the employee and counseled her, yet she still clocked in late today. Compose a 1-2 (250-500 words) letter with data, reprimanding the employee and informing her of the impact and consequences of her behavior. In addition, indicate what the next steps are in the progressive disciplinary measures, should she not come to work on time. Post the letter in this week’s Discussion Board (or Submit as an assignment).

    5. Assignment for an Internship or Capstone Course

    During the course of your Internship (or Capstone) you will be expected to identify a minimum of ten (10) potential employers that you believe will be a good fit with you and that are consistent with your career development plan. You will prepare a resume and cover letter tailored to each employer. Based on your research on the potential employer, compose a 300 word cover letter indicating: where you found the job opportunity, why you believe you are a good candidate, including your most recent accomplishments that demonstrate your competencies, and how you can be contacted.

    In our day of constant connectivity, we are inundated with requests to sign petitions for causes, to share links in Facebook, and to retweet on Twitter. There are even apps for our phones that can convert texts into faxes and letters. These are great as quick tools to enable us to voice our opinions and concerns. Nothing, however, replaces the basic art of letter writing and, if it is not already there, I urge you to consider incorporating it into your curriculum.

     

    Sharon 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:

    Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). (2017, March 9). List of selected multistate foodborne outbreak investigations. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/foodsafety/outbreaks/multistate-outbreaks/outbreaks-list.html

    Klink, Dessi. (2012, November 13). Hello Mudduh, Hello Fadduh! (A letter from camp) by Allan Sherman . [Video file]. Retrieved from https://youtu.be/LI3tSF7E5VU

    Massachusetts Historical Society (2017). The Adams papers. Retrieved from https://www.masshist.org/publications/apde2/browse?a=Adams,%20Abigail&ano=author3

    Petroff, A. (2017, April 11). United Airlines shows how to make a PR crisis a total disaster. Retrieved from http://money.cnn.com/2017/04/11/news/united-passenger-pr-disaster/

    United States Senate. (2017). Senators of the 115th Congress. Retrieved from https://www.senate.gov/senators/contact/

    U.S. House of Representatives. (2017). Directory of Representatives. Retrieved from http://www.house.gov/representatives/

    Topics: Epidemiology, flipped classroom, health policy, Sharon B. Buchbinder, Public health management, Sharon Buchbinder Blog, Classroom Assignments, Public Administration

    Subscribe to Email Updates

    Recent Posts

    Posts by Topic

    see all