December 17, 2013
Last summer, at the request of UTHealth President Giuseppe N. Colasurdo, M.D., I accepted additional executive responsibilities as Senior Vice President for Interprofessional Education, in which I will be working on a new initiative involving all six schools that make up UTHealth.
The education, both didactic and clinical, of healthcare professionals typically occurs in silos. In this model, students learn very little about the roles and responsibilities of colleagues in other disciplines. This lack of knowledge impairs working in collaborative teams upon entering professional practice. This too-narrow perspective is known to be a factor in preventable medical errors, as well as decreased patient satisfaction and quality of care.
Interprofessional education (IPE) – a broad term that includes education, practice and research – involves shared learning experiences among health profession students and across disciplines, with goals for building stronger clinical teams and improving health outcomes. Leading authorities, including the World Health Organization, Institute of Medicine, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the American Association of Colleges of Nursing all have identified IPE as an effective way to improve the preparation of the nation’s healthcare workforce and optimize delivery of care. Interprofessional education is a strategic direction at The University of Texas System level.
Exemplary programs already are in place as models for health profession students at the University of Minnesota, University of Colorado and the University of Washington.
The basic premise is irrefutable: If we all work together better, understand each other better and value one another as fellow professionals, we can reduce the chances of bad outcomes and provide more effective care to improve the health of our patients. I once heard our educational model compared to the scenario of training a baseball team, where the pitchers are sent to Arizona, the batters to Florida, the catcher to North Carolina, etc. – then, when the season starts, bringing them together for the first time and saying “Play Ball!” It just wouldn’t work.
Implementation of IPE has numerous benefits. It gives health profession students insight into the tasks and responsibilities of other healthcare professionals, helps them to learn empathy and value the patient’s perspective. Students are better able to understand and foster the patient’s role in the healthcare team. IPE encourages the development of leadership skills, affords an opportunity to “fail” in a safe environment, as well as teaching how to recognize group dysfunction and how to deal with non-team players.
A successful IPE program requires a commitment from university leadership and calls on the faculty to embrace new ideas and think creatively. We are fortunate at UTHealth that we already have natural partners on our campus. Six schools within our institutional framework provide a variety of possible educational and clinical settings. Also, the sprawling Texas Medical Center is an ideal location for seeking partnerships outside our own university.
On Wednesday and Thursday of this week, John Cramer, the director of organization effectiveness at Memorial Hermann Healthcare System, will be the facilitator of an off-campus IPE Executive Retreat, where we will examine IPE survey responses and plan next steps. The ultimate goal will be to create a UTHealth Center for Interprofessional Education having its own director/co-directors, staff, annual budget and a plan for broadly integrating IPE core competencies throughout the UTHealth schools and collaborating institutions.
Our three-year plan for successful implementation of IPE is, essentially, a grassroots effort. It requires determined champions from among administration, faculty and students to teach the continuous interaction and knowledge-sharing that produces this new “interprofessionality.”
Dr. Juliana Brixey, who already has a joint appointment at the School of Nursing and the School of Biomedical Informatics (SBMI), is taking a new role as the director of interprofessional education for SBMI. She will be leading efforts toward building the bridge between the two schools and fostering the nursing informatics curriculum across the two schools.
UTHealth is offering a new, collaborative IPE pilot program, the Deans’ Honors Colloquium, for students in each of the university’s six schools. The Colloquium will focus on teamwork and collaboration, including the basic principles of Team STEPPS (“Strategies and Tools to Enhance Performance & Patient Safety”) training. Participants will be placed in IPE teams that will meet face-to-face four times during a semester. At the end, participants will share findings and outcomes from interprofessional team-based case scenarios.
For more information about the course, please visit: http://www.uth.edu/ipe/.
We know with certainty that, nationwide, we are going to see a surge in patients as our population ages and as the Affordable Care Act expands the health insurance marketplace to cover more people than ever. Healthcare resources will be hard-pressed, and all of us will need to work in sync as never before to deliver for our patients the best hope for a healthier future.
Happy Holidays and Best Wishes for the New Year from all of us at the UTHealth School of Nursing! Click here to view our 2013 Holiday Card!
– Dean Starck