Compare championship teams through the history of sports and a trend will soon emerge — their ability to play as a team. Each player on these winning teams excels at their specific role, but it is only when they come together that they dominate the competition. Within the realm of health care, the key to making advances in patient care is through teams of confident, skilled communicators.
“Today’s health care field is truly team-based with multiple health care providers involved in the direct care of each patient,” said Deepti Vyas, PharmD, associate professor of pharmacy practice. “This requires strategic collaboration between members of the medical team so that each professional’s expertise is optimally utilized.”
It takes a team to provide the best possible patient care.
A key aspect of preparing students for the high intensity of a hospital environment is to help them understand the role of each health care professional so that they know exactly who to approach, no matter what situation may arise. While this is often clear for nurses and physicians, it can be unclear to other health care professionals who are directly involved in patient care. Pacific has developed Interprofessional Experience (IPE) programs to give students opportunities to work with individuals from other disciplines. “Currently, our doctor of pharmacy students actively collaborate with students in the physician assistant, dental surgery, physical therapy and speech-language pathology programs at Pacific,” Dr. Vyas said.
In March, the School organized a lab that brought together doctor of pharmacy (PharmD), doctor of physical therapy and master of science in speech-language pathology students. The lab took place in the School’s state-of-the-art high-fidelity simulation lab. During the simulations, students were asked to work together to treat a patient with congestive heart failure as well as a patient who had suffered a stroke.
“It takes a team to provide the best possible patient care,” said Erica Barr, PharmD, assistant clinical professor of pharmacy practice. “The students were also able to learn from the strengths of the other disciplines, such as the fantastic bedside manner exhibited by the physical therapy students.”
In addition to preparing students to work in dynamic, collaborative teams, it is crucial that they can adapt to technology, which adds an extra layer of complexity to interdisciplinary interactions. Pacific has partnered with University of Missouri-Kansas City (UMKC) for a telehealth initiative. “Telehealth is the use of technology to collaborate virtually,” Dr. Vyas explained.
Pacific PharmD students collaborated with UMKC psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner students. They were asked to evaluate cases related to psychiatric conditions such as bipolar disorders, schizophrenia and dementia.
Both groups accessed the electronic health records of the case study patients. From there, they assessed the patient within their scope of practice. For the PharmD students, this involved determining whether there were any dangerous drug-to-drug interactions, contraindications or comorbidities. The groups then compared notes during two video conference sessions. This simulated a real-world scenario in which a nurse practitioner could liaison directly with a pharmacist to establish a therapeutic treatment plan.
“We hope they develop lifelong partnerships with their counterparts from other professions, so they can continue to collaborate with each other long after graduation.”
To further expand and enrich our IPE programs, the School has also established partnerships with Arkansas College of Osteopathic Medicine and West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine.
“What drives me is looking for new avenues to link up students that might not have otherwise met,” Dr. Vyas said. “We hope they develop lifelong partnerships with their counterparts from other professions so they can continue to collaborate with each other long after graduation.”
The ultimate goal is to improve patient care. “If you are working within your own silos and not collaborating with other health care professionals, there is a higher likelihood of making errors,” Dr. Vyas emphasized. “We focus on improving students’ professional communication skills and their ability to collaborate. We believe these interactions are vital in allowing our students to develop core skills in patient safety and advocacy.”
By Anne Marie H. Bergthold