UW Today

October 15, 2013

Initiative draws faculty, students into collaborative health care

UW Health Sciences & UW Medicine

The UW schools of health sciences have formed a new initiative to teach and deliver health care across disciplines, a team-based approach that is gaining recognition nationally and is expected to make health care more efficient and effective.

Joseph Falcone, a second-year medical student, fills out a questionnaire.

Joseph Falcone, a second-year medical student, fills out a questionnaire.Ashley Wiggin

The deans of the UW’s six schools of health sciences – dentistry, medicine, nursing, pharmacy, public health and social work — started the Interprofessional Education Initiative: Vision for a Collaborative Future that aims to foster collaborative learning across the schools.

“This is the single-most important multidisciplinary initiative of our time, in terms of impact and scope,” said Pharmacy Dean Thomas Baillie, head of the UW Board of Health Sciences Deans, which made the decision.

The nature of health care is changing rapidly and significantly; much of it driven by cost and technology, and a changing workforce,” Baillie said.

“Our structure of having all six schools in close proximity helps collaboration,” he said. “This is an opportunity to impact health care in Washington to make it more effective, higher quality and lower cost. Ultimately, this approach will lead to more effective and economical delivery of health care and education, as well. ”

The 600 students from all six health sciences schools are participating in the new Foundations of Interprofessional Practice curriculum, a seven-session series in which students work together in teams solving real health challenges.

“What really excites me is seeing students think outside the box and understanding that they can make many contributions to the treatment of patients beyond what they face in their individual disciplines by participating jointly in solving problems,” Baillie said.

Karen McDonough, associate professor of medicine, sets the stage for the  first Interprofessional Education sessions.

Karen McDonough, associate professor of medicine, sets the stage for the first Interprofessional Education sessions.Ashley Wiggin

A workshop to help faculty prepare for interprofessional education was led by Karen McDonough, associate professor of medicine, and Brenda Zierler, a professor of behavioral nursing and health systems and the principal investigator on the grant from the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration that helps to fund the initiative. Additional funding came from the Josiah Macy Jr. Foundation.

“This year we’re laying the foundation of interprofessional practice by having students participate in seven sessions over the year,” McDonough said. “The sessions will include collaborative learning projects, role-playing, individual and group learning plans and case studies that approximate situations, such as medical error disclosure, that may be faced on the job.”

After an initial meeting, students from medicine, nursing, dentistry, pharmacy, social work and physician assistant programs shared thoughts about their experiences and insights.

A social work doctoral student knew that team-based solutions are more beneficial. “I knew this intuitively, but to experience it in a short time and with such diversity around the table brought new insight.”

A second-year medical student said, “Talking with students in different degree programs was the first time I learned about training involved in these other programs, which definitely gave me a better understanding of the role they play in patient care.”

Matthew Smith, a first-year physician assistant student, said the greatest insight for him “was hearing that this is not just a theory, but that there is evidence that demonstrates better patient care when teams collaborate.” That means, for example, shorter hospital stays and fewer medical errors.

“This is an opportunity to impact health care in Washington to make it more effective, higher quality and lower cost,” Baillie said. “Ultimately, this approach will lead to more effective and economical delivery of health care and education, as well.”

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