Medical education should teach students to cooperate (opinion)

In the medical world, a patient’s path to health is often a collaborative journey. Everyday miracles are made possible by bringing together the expertise of medical professionals to unravel the complexities of the human body and lend their expertise to improve lives.

However, disciplinary silos are evident in postsecondary education programs. Different medical specialties, such as speech-language pathology, physical therapy, occupational therapy, and nursing, are taught as if they function independently.

Although this compartmentalization is rooted in tradition, it can limit the potential for comprehensive patient care. result? Too many opportunities are missed to maximize the healing power of interprofessional collaboration, and this oversight has a direct impact on patient outcomes. After all, no single practitioner can acquire enough knowledge to completely unravel the intricacies of the human body, let alone the intricacies of human life.

In most cases, we believe that healthcare providers will eventually learn the art of collaboration through trial and error. But there’s a better way. Synergies between diverse medical fields can be fostered through interprofessional education. By empowering healthcare professionals to work seamlessly across disciplines, IPE can ultimately improve patient outcomes and reshape healthcare environments.

Initiatives for multi-disciplinary collaborative education

Rather than requiring speech therapists, physical therapists, occupational therapists, or nurses to start their careers and discover for themselves how their work fits into the bigger picture, Interprofessional education should be added to all medical programs. IPE provides a way to foster collaboration from the very beginning of a degree or licensure program, increasing visibility of providers’ different roles and competencies, and helping coordinate efforts.

Although the idea of ​​IPE has been around for decades, it had not been implemented on a large scale in most educational programs. However, IPE has the potential to eliminate gaps and duplication in care, prevent diagnostic errors, and reduce overbilling. Best of all, it allows professionals to collaborate more effectively with other healthcare professionals and provide better patient care.

The ultimate goal of the IPE model is to create a health care system that is greater than the sum of its parts, one that seamlessly supports patients in all aspects of their humanity. Patient needs often cross disciplinary boundaries, so to provide truly patient-centered care, you need to know what care is available outside of your office and where your strengths and limitations are. , you need to understand how to enhance the work of your colleagues in other disciplines. .

In other words, the healthcare sector needs to understand itself more deeply. And a way to start this process is to consider how we are educating the next generation of health care professionals.

Stocks and IPE

As medical professionals grapple with stubborn health disparities in underserved communities, IPE has the potential to alleviate those disparities. Training based on the IPE model can replicate the experience of working in a multidisciplinary clinic, such as a free clinic, where communities tend to receive services.

Students trained in this manner may be more comfortable and able to provide culturally competent care from their first day on the job due to their interprofessional experience. Second, the importance of assembling a well-coordinated medical team becomes even more apparent in the case of complex, high-risk patients, who are overrepresented in these communities.

And finally, outside of free clinics, overbilling and medical surpluses are major barriers to care for disadvantaged patients, so IPE greatly benefits this population through its streamlining effect.

Practitioners probably cannot expect to create radical change on their own. Eliminating the old inequalities in patient outcomes that we see today requires collaboration across sectors. IPE is an important step in that evolution.

How to get started implementing and extending IPE

Of course, university administrators will wonder how they can achieve these lofty goals without destroying their entire learning infrastructure. But the good news is that you can introduce his IPE into your medical education program in a variety of ways. While the details may vary by school and program, the foundations of success here are always creativity, intention, and commitment.

  • simulation lab. Building a simulation lab on campus creates a foundation on which interdisciplinary practice can grow. These labs allow students from various programs to practice working collaboratively on problem-solving exercises, scenarios, and other activities that reflect the interdisciplinary environment they will encounter as full-fledged practitioners.
  • Faculty collaboration. Revised curricula to encourage cross-disciplinary collaborative lectures, case discussions, and shared clinical experiences will allow faculty from different disciplines to bring students together to model the behaviors necessary for health care.
  • Community health fair. Health fairs bring different departments together in one place to observe, learn, teach, and inspire each other while informing and providing health screenings to the public. Simply seeing all of your peers working towards a common goal can expand a student’s horizons beyond the confines of siled disciplines.
  • Clinical rotation. Providing care to real patients in free community clinics and other clinical settings alongside colleagues from other specialties is perhaps the most powerful demonstration that can show students the importance of collaboration in healthcare. is. Students who receive this type of training can utilize it throughout their careers.

Similarly, scaling IPE is a matter of creativity and persistence, including:

  • cohort. Dividing students into cohorts makes it easier to involve large numbers of students in interdisciplinary activities.
  • repetition. It is important to reuse resources when necessary. For example, you can run her simulation once with different groups of students to help them understand new concepts, or run the simulation multiple times with the same group to reinforce key points.
  • team building. Promoting collaboration can be done in a variety of ways outside of the medical context, such as escape rooms, obstacle courses, or other team-building exercises.

the time has come

It’s not just a hypothesis that so many patients need help, they actually deserve to be used to the best of our ability. I believe that interprofessional education can give them that.

For example, I know of a graduate level simulation currently in development. It tests students’ skills and collaboration under conditions as close as possible to the interprofessional realities they will later encounter. The simulation, a case conference about a drug-addicted patient scheduled for discharge to a homeless shelter, involved students from St. Augustine’s College of Health Sciences’ physical therapy, occupational therapy, nursing, and speech-language pathology programs. Resolving the challenges that such incidents can pose requires providing specialized skills in specialized areas. The purpose of this exercise is to open students’ eyes to the big picture, and often gritty, picture of health care today, including gaps in the system and barriers to access, and to empower health professionals to excel. The goal is to strengthen our ability to provide quality patient care. each other’s strengths.

Making IPE a priority in today’s medical education means that, far into the future, skilled and adaptable practitioners, not just within the arsenal maintained by the specialty, but within any arsenal, will be able to respond to specific patient needs. It helps build a pipeline of practitioners who can find suitable solutions. From every field.

The time is right for us to pool our abilities, knowledge and energy. What are we delaying?

Norman Belleza is the founding director of interprofessional education and assistant professor in the physical therapy program in the College of Health Sciences at St. Augustine’s University. Belleza is active nationally and internationally in the emerging field of simulation in rehabilitation education, with a focus on interprofessional education.

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