Interprofessional education sessions at WSU Applebaum bridge health disciplines for students

Students work together during the IPE event
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Communication, collaboration and cooperation among health professionals in different roles is essential for patient safety and quality of care. For interprofessional care to become the norm in practice, interprofessional education (IPE) must be an essential element of how health professional students are trained, and WSU Applebaum has made it a priority to create robust IPE experiences that bridge understanding of health professions among students across its programs.

“Housing a dozen professional programs in health care, WSU Applebaum has a built-in opportunity to work together to create meaningful interprofessional opportunities and has integrated IPE into its curricula for decades,” said Associate Dean for Pharmacy Rich Lucarotti. “Our recent efforts step up our commitment to IPE by providing more comprehensive experiences outside normal classwork will further impress its impact on our students and serve them well in their professional roles after graduation.”

In 2019, a WSU Applebaum Interprofessional Education Taskforce was created and charged with building out interprofessional education programming within the college. Taskforce members include Chair of Health Care Sciences Sara Maher, Chair of Pharmacy Practice Lynette Moser, Assistant Professor (Clinical) of Physician Assistant Studies Jamie McQueen, Assistant Professor of Occupational Therapy Kim Banfill, Assistant Professor (Clinical) of Nurse Anesthesia Mary Walczyk, Assistant Professor (Clinical) of Physical Therapy Andrew Moul, and Professor (Clinical) of Pharmacy Practice Candice Garwood.

The group’s first series of events took place Jan. 14 and 16, 2020, with 240 students from five programs actively participating in large and small group sessions focused on interprofessional roles in pain management.

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As a group, the students learned about the history and roles of the physician assistant, pharmacist, occupational therapist, physical therapist and nurse anesthetist. Then, they broke into smaller groups comprising students from each program. In those sessions, which were facilitated by faculty members, the students actively evaluated a complex case study related to opioid misuse, discussed the patient and proposed treatment from their professional purview, learning how to work together across disciplines to provide a higher standard of care.

The students were charged with identifying and discussing factors that may affect the patient’s health, including diverse medical problems, substance misuse, and social challenges that impede medical care. Then, as an interprofessional team, they presented a cohesive care plan that included specific input from physician assistant, pharmacy, nurse anesthesia, occupational therapy and physical therapy perspectives. 

Students reported that they learned about the full scope of each profession and how each would assess the patient in different ways, getting to know what other disciplines bring to the table in terms of patient care.

“When we bring students from diverse programs together, they learn about, from and with each other to exponentially add to their knowledge and skills,” said Lucarotti. “More sessions like this will be planned to accelerate our IPE initiatives. This is essential to providing a complete education for our future health care professionals and to grow their understanding of the importance of collaboration throughout their careers.”

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