Imagine a world-class orchestra coming together for a performance after its members simply practiced the music individually. It would probably be a disappointing, if not completely disastrous, concert. Without rehearsing as a group beforehand, the ensemble and its conductor would not have developed the nuances of dynamics, pacing and character that make a performance distinctive. Despite the extraordinary talents of the individuals, the collective results would be a far cry from the group’s tremendous potential.
Unfortunately, this is all too common in many health care settings. Members of the team—the physicians, pharmacists, nurses, social workers, and so on—each understand their role and are experts in their own right. However, they may not understand how to best interact with the other team members to produce optimal results for the patient.
NEOMED makes interprofessional education a core principle of its curriculum, training its students how to collaborate to treat the patient as a whole, not as a collection of symptoms.
Recently, the University hosted an Interprofessional Education Team Training run by the Wasson Center for Clinical Skills, attended by all third-year medicine and pharmacy students. In total, the Wasson Center has run about 16 of these activities in the last 4 years. This regional training on NEOMED’s campus has drawn participants from 11 professions (physicians, pharmacists, advanced practice nurses, nurses, physical therapists, nutritionists, radiology technicians, exercise scientists, paramedics, social workers and counselors) and from nine institutions (Walsh University, Malone University, Mercy College, University of Mount Union, University of Akron, Ursuline College, Youngstown State University, NEOMED and Summa Health).
A man and his dog
Like many trainings held by NEOMED’s Wasson Center, this one was case-based, to help learners understand the social determinants of health that play such an important role in patient’s health. One case study was that of an ailing father who lived on his own, with the exception of his dog. The health care team learned that it would need to work together as a team to learn about the patient’s full circumstances. For example, the nurse or social worker may have valuable information that the physician or pharmacist has not received. While some may seem like insignificant details, a patient who doesn’t leave the house for an appointment because he’s worried that there’s no one to attend to his dog during the long period he’ll be gone is a patient who falls through the cracks. The health care professional students learned that having conversations to understand their patient’s lives and individual barriers to care, as well as relying on a team of health care professionals for information, are crucial.
“We have standardized patients (SPs) attend the trainings to put a face and set of emotions with each case study,” said Holly Gerzina, Ph.D., executive director of the Wasson Center. “Students will actually tear up listening to the cases from the SPs. Their stories hit home, and they get the added lesson of empathy in addition to communication and teamwork.”
The trainings also help learners understand that perspectives can vary wildly from person to person.
“Simple statements, such as ‘I’m not feeling well’ or ‘I need more help’ can be interpreted completely differently by team members,” sad Cassandra Konen-Butler, M.A., associate director of operations at the Wasson Center. “These interactive sessions are necessary to help health professionals of different stripes learn how to act as a team and fully communicate with one another.”