QUESTION: What’s an effective way for health professions faculty to appreciate the power and importance of interprofessional education and development?
ANSWER: Watch and contribute to an interprofessional student team’s first patient-centered interview.
The IMPACT Practice® curriculum, initiated in 2013 and directed by Dr. Mary Knab, is an overarching approach to incorporating the principles of interprofessional learning, setting the stage for interprofessional collaborative practice for entry-level students from across all MGH IHP programs. Teams of 4 – 5 students from multiple disciplines spend their first year engaged in activities that expose them to and engage them in patient-centered team-based learning. These are opportunities for students to get to know each other as peers and to develop their individual understanding of each other’s professional expertise and what they each bring to patient care as a team. The group simulated patient interviews offer the students practice to really work as a team to grasp a patient’s perspective: How does a care team of different professionals communicate together around the patient’s values and needs? How do they build an alliance with the patient and other providers to support the best care for the patient? What do they each bring to this group experience and how do they create synergy as a team?
Facilitating and debriefing a simulated patient encounter is probably common for many health professions educators today. But when I watched my student team: nursing, occupational therapy, speech and language pathology, physical therapy, and physician assistant students, perform a group interview with a simulated patient and his care attendant, I was struck by their attention to the patient AND to each other, their team members. They are learning together, about each other as persons and professionals, about each other’s professional roles and expertise, and about how they can work as a team: with respect, flexibility, and a real interest in what they each bring to the patient encounter. Immediately after the session, they are eager to share their individual experiences when debriefing the simulated encounter: “What happened when he said this? How could I have asked this question? When did you want to jump in? Was I asking the same question that you were?”
Two weeks later, when we debrief the experience again over lunch, the reflections are deeper and the focus has shifted from the individual to the group experience of talking to and caring for a patient. My students are talking about what it feels like to share responsibilities for patient care across their professions, how being a team member as a learner is translating into their views of themselves as team-based care providers. I am so impressed with the maturity with which they are approaching their learning, with a shared mission of placing the patient and family at the center of their individual education and growth.
I could not impart these lessons, ideas, wisdom to faculty with the same authenticity as comes from listening to my students learning together. What better way to develop faculty who teach and practice with a focus on the value of a diverse, interprofessional team with shared competencies and patient-centered purpose?