As West Virginia University Health Sciences students learn how to best serve their patients and communities, the Office of Interprofessional Education is providing unique opportunities for them to work together through hands-on learning experiences with an interdisciplinary approach.
The five WVU health schools — Dentistry, Medicine, Nursing, Pharmacy and Public Health — and their undergraduate, graduate, medical and professional students engage in immersive, skill-based learning with others outside their discipline to prepare them to work as a collaborative practice team. The office has also recently expanded beyond Health Sciences and partnered with academic programs and colleges across campus including social work, art therapy and journalism.
“Our interprofessional education program provides opportunities for intentional collaboration amongst the care team at the educational level so these experiences will translate into interprofessional collaborative practice and ultimately improved outcomes for patients and populations,” said Gina Baugh, director of interprofessional education and director of introductory pharmacy practice experiences and clinical professor in the School of Pharmacy.
The program, established in 2013, is a three-phase approach for students to establish proficiency in interprofessional care beginning with didactic and simulation learning experiences, followed by clinical practice.
Through this approach, students are actively engaging in learning based on the four competencies of interprofessional practice and education — values and ethics, roles and responsibilities, communication and teamwork.
The unique makeup of the Health Sciences Campus in Morgantown provides the perfect foundation for promoting interprofessional collaboration among students, faculty and staff. Its location as the largest concentration of health care, research and health professions resources in West Virginia has allowed interprofessional education at WVU to flourish and become a model for other institutions across the country.
“Our interprofessional education program at WVU is a purpose-driven educational opportunity for students to experience firsthand the value that each member of the health care team contributes in the delivery of quality, patient-centered care,” Dr. Louise Veselicky, associate vice president for academic affairs at Health Sciences, said.
Students from 16 programs at the University participate in a variety of hands-on experiences as part of the academic curriculum and additional out-of-class opportunities that promote collaboration between disciplines.
Many of these experiences include time spent in the David and Jo Ann Shaw Center for Simulation Training and Education for Patient Safety where students practice patient scenarios and proper care techniques in a safe learning environment.
The Community Action Poverty Simulation, an interactive immersion experience that sensitizes participants to the realities of poverty, is offered several times throughout the semester. The simulation exists to promote poverty awareness, increase understanding, inspire local change and transform perspectives.
During the two-hour experience, students assume the identity of family units and simulate the challenges associated with poverty over a one-month period. The simulation provides future health care professionals with a better understanding of how to help people who are impoverished on a daily basis.
Carson Cochran, a second-year student from Clifftop in the Doctor of Dental Surgery program, said he was most surprised by the power of knowledge throughout the simulation experience.
“That was probably the most prolific thing that really stuck with me — the power of knowledge. There were some things that kind of swept you off your feet. So, I think the biggest thing was how to find out what you need to know.”
Being paired with an interprofessional team for the simulation introduced Cochran to additional perspectives.
“Getting to work with people in other health care professions gave us some insight,” he said. “The interprofessional part of this simulation really changed the dynamic. If I would have been doing this with my dental classmates, we probably would have the same thought process. I’m glad that I got to work with other professions.”
The simulation also provides students with the opportunity to think about how they might react if they were in a similar situation in real life, and how they might be able to support the individuals and communities they serve in their future careers.
“We’re not just health care providers, we’re also fellow humans who are going to have to work to try and improve other people’s lives. And that’s a core principle here.”
Cochran noted that he hopes to carry out those principles of service to others and community values when he graduates and returns home to southern West Virginia as a general dentist.
Other opportunities such as the Interdisciplinary Education Apartment Simulation and the Pediatric Project Delivery of Chronic Care provide students with ways to interact across specialties and learn how to best treat patients in a collaborative setting.
Angela Goodhart, assistant professor in the Department of Clinical Pharmacy and Department of Family Medicine, and Dr. Jennifer Momen, assistant professor and program director of Physician Assistant Studies, received the 2023 Award for Excellence in Interprofessional Education for their development of an asynchronous interprofessional chronic care management simulation.
Designed to emulate chronic care management services, students participate in six standardized patient encounters through the Center for Simulation Training and Education for Patient Safety that focus on communication, interprofessional collaboration and patient care. The simulation strengthens students’ interprofessional education competencies in communication, teamwork and roles and responsibilities.
“So much of what I do each day as a clinical pharmacist is collaborate with colleagues of other disciplines,” Goodhart said. “A lot of these collaborations take place over a period of time where we follow the same patients longitudinally. I didn’t feel this was something our students were prepared for when they got to clinicals, so I wanted to simulate my real-world practice experiences in some way.”
For Momen, creating this simulation experience was a way to show students how cross-discipline collaboration is essential for successful health care practice.
“One of my goals for this experience is to increase awareness among our physician assistant students of the many types of contributions that pharmacists can make to patient care, beyond those traditionally considered,” Momen said. “Another goal is that our students develop a greater appreciation of the benefits of communication and care coordination among providers. I believe the lessons learned in this simulation are applicable across medical disciplines and practice settings and anticipate that our graduates will apply them in their future practice to improve patient satisfaction and health outcomes.”
Faculty in and outside of Health Sciences regularly collaborate across disciplines to create updated experiences that most accurately reflect real-life encounters in the health care setting.
Interprofessional education efforts in clinical practice continue to expand as student teams provide in-person care and telehealth through the WVU Transitions of Care Program. With support from Dr. Jenna Sizemore and Dr. Jessica Thayer of the Department of Medicine, the development and implementation of huddles focusing on interprofessional collaboration in the practice environment have resulted in positive patient outcomes.
In the community, student teams collaborate to care for patients through Project MUSHROOM — Multidisciplinary UnSheltered Homeless Relief Outreach of Morgantown — an effort bringing together students and faculty on “street rounds” to provide care and supplies to individuals experiencing homelessness.
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