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Paving the Way to Interprofessional Learning at the University of New England

By IHI Open School | Friday, October 17, 2014

The University of New England’s (UNE) Open School Chapter, called the Interprofessional Student Advisory Team, has been hard at work promoting team-based care on their campus, which includes programs in multiple health professions. This year, they hosted a local case competition, where students analyze a health care situation and offer recommendations. They required students who participated to complete the IHI Open School Basic Certificate as a prerequisite. They asked students to complete self-assessments of their learning both before and after the case competition, and found that the students learned a lot by taking the courses, but even more after applying their learning in the case analysis. They presented a poster with their findings at the International Social Pharmacy Workshop in Boston in August 2014.

UNE Chapter

University of New England student leaders hosted a health care case competition in Portland, Maine, this April. From left to right, they are Lacey Solloway (Pharmacy), Justin Levesque (Pharmacy), Dr. Lisa Pagnucco (Chapter Advisor and Pharmacy Faculty), Lindsay Robusto (Pharmacy), Maggie Jones (Pharmacy), Danielle Cropley (Occupational Therapy), Nora Asamoah (Pharmacy), and Sujin An (Pharmacy).

We spoke with E. Maggie Jones, a fourth-year pharmacy student who served as the Chapter President last academic year, about the case competition and the research project, to learn more.

OS: What motivated you to participate in the case competition?

MJ: I was thinking about the way our health system is moving to a patient-centered care model, with a team that is constantly in communication about the resources for our patients. I wanted to gain interprofessional experience and learn how to be a good team player before graduating and entering my field. We weren’t getting these skills in our courses, so I wanted to give myself that experience. That’s why I did the case competition. I learned a lot about the way our health care system functions through that experience, especially from other members of my team who were further along in their studies, including students of medicine, physical therapy, and occupational therapy.

OS: This year, as Chapter President, you and your Chapter decided to require the IHI Open School’s Basic Certificate to participate in the case competition. Why?

MJ: Because I had attended the IHI Open School Student Quality Leadership Academy and met some folks at IHI, I thought, “What if we made the Basic Certificate a prerequisite to competing?” Students weren’t even assigned to teams until they completed the Certificate. This gave them a really good baseline knowledge, which we think everyone should be graduating with, but isn’t always the case based on our non-integrated curricula. We thought it would raise the bar in our competition. Instead of letting people choose the members of their team, we randomized it based on majors and years of education. After all, you can’t choose who you’re going to work with when you’re out there practicing.

OS: How did the competition go?

MJ: The whole premise of this case competition is performing a root cause analysis — why health care wasn’t delivered appropriately. It’s not a clinical case, but rather a case about health systems and processes. I feel like that’s why the courses were so valuable. It’s not as simple as having a patient with lung cancer and recognizing that they got the wrong chemo; it’s more about why the patient waited three hours in the office before getting treated, or why the patient didn’t pick up their expensive medication. It’s figuring out how to put patients in touch with resources. Even though the online courses don’t point you in specific directions necessarily for resources, it became evident to the students what they needed to look up.

This was the second year we did the case competition, and we had 24 participants, 11 of whom participated in our research. This was fewer than last year because the Basic Certificate is a big undertaking — 24 ½ hours of course material. People were intimidated by that. We felt okay about it, though, because we got the people who really wanted the experience for themselves. It became a much deeper experience than if you were just participating to put it on your resume. We had representation from pharmacy, nursing, physical therapy, occupational therapy, social work, medicine, and physician assistants.

OS: What were your findings from your research project?

MJ: Our small research project evaluated the results of requiring the Basic Certificate. We presented a descriptive analysis of the cohort of students we had participating, looking at baseline knowledge and skills gained after completing the courses, then re-surveying after the case competition to see if they used that knowledge. We found a significant difference in the following areas: confidence in roles and responsibilities in own profession and professions other than own; confidence in improvement capabilities, patient safety, and leadership. We also found that students recognized that their peers gained in their preparation based on completion of the Basic Certificate. The main reason that students participated in the case competition was to become a contributing member of an interprofessional team, and we found that, post-competition, students felt that they successfully built relationships with students from other health profession programs.

OS: Do you hope your research will help prove the value of interprofessional education on quality and safety?

MJ: Our ultimate goal is to make the courses part of our orientation for all health students on our campus. It’s not something you need clinical knowledge for — it’s a process-based, skill-building education that allows for meaningful discussion from the very beginning.

There are a lot of barriers to working interprofessionally on our campus, and I don’t think that’s unique to us. Health profession students are mainly on a single campus, and yet we don’t take classes with each other. For example, each college has its own list of student email addresses with its own administrative assistant responsible for electronic communication. That was a huge thing for us, just compiling that list of administrators to have the best chance of getting the message about our opportunity out to all students. That’s not something our university has available in a central location for student access, but with the help of our amazing faculty advisor, we were able to compile the list in time.

OS: What’s your advice for other students?

MJ: To be proactive in their education. We pay so much money to get this education, and you can be the student who just accepts whatever is given, or you can seek out these opportunities for yourself. That’s what I did, and I found really great faculty who were willing to help me. I think this helps build practical skills that employers are going to look at positively. I think the interprofessional team skills show that you’re in this for patient care, not for a paycheck. You’re proving that it’s not about you and your degree, because the whole basis of interprofessional work is sharing with each other and leaning on each other and trusting each other to keep people at the center of their care.

Editor’s note: Other contributors to this work include the Chapter’s faculty advisor, Lisa Pagnucco, PharmD, Leslie Ochs, PhD, PharmD, and Lindsay Robusto, a pharmacy student.

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