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Patient Actors Help UW Health Sciences Students Hone Skills

two young men and an older woman
Susan McGraw, left, a patient actor, receives treatment from second-year UW medical education students Adam Blaine, of Gillette, and Conner Morton, of Casper. Actors posing as patients for the interprofessional training pretended to suffer from altered mental states due to misuse of medication or a hypertensive crisis. Students in the training were encouraged to use effective communication skills with one another and realize how these skills affect patient outcomes. (UW Photo)

The University of Wyoming WWAMI Medical Education Program recently hosted an interprofessional training in the College of Health Sciences, which included students from WWAMI Medical Education, the School of Nursing and the School of Pharmacy.

This was the first time in the college that students from different health education pursuits trained together with human patient actors.

The training focused on helping future health care professionals understand the importance of communication across different health care professions. Fifty-one pharmacy students, four nursing students and 20 medical education students interacted with patient actors -- real people playing the role of patients suffering from altered mental states caused by misuse of medication or conditions such as hypertension.

Clear, concise communication by medical personnel, especially in a health crisis, cannot be overemphasized, says Dr. Yvette Haeberle, clinical curriculum director for the WWAMI (Washington, Wyoming, Alaska, Montana and Idaho) Medical Education Program at UW.

“As a pharmacist, for example, you notice your patient seems mentally confused or disoriented. A blood-pressure check reveals a reading of 260 over 110. This is a medical emergency,” Haeberle says.

After discussing with students what next steps a pharmacist might take in this scenario, she gives more advice.

“You question the patient regarding their prescriptions, then call the patient’s physician and report the patient’s condition,” Haeberle says. “The physician agrees this is a medical crisis and needs emergency room care right away.”

Students observed a patient actor, appearing with doctors in a mock emergency room setting. Still noticing mental confusion, two medical education students questioned the patient, communicating with each other about treatment options.

“Physicians, nurses, pharmacists and other medical professionals all need to effectively communicate which, ultimately, leads to better patient care,” Haeberle says.

Crysta Sullivan, of Gillette, is a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) student in the Fay W. Whitney School of Nursing. She notes how the training focused on a good communication format.

“Situation background assessment recommendations is a really good format for communication, and it’s better to get as much information as possible from the patient,” Sullivan says. “Don’t be afraid to ask for help if questioning what to do.”

Daulton Grube, a second-year WWAMI Medical Education student from Rock Springs, says the training gave him a better perspective of working in a team environment.

“It was a good glimpse into what it is like working in a hospital with different health care areas involved in the patient’s care,” Grube says.

Speaking about possible communications that take place between health care professionals, Colby Limb, a second-year pharmacy student from Beaver, Utah, says the training is valuable.

“The training has shown more of the practical application for drug knowledge and to see what kind of questions physicians will ask pharmacists,” he says.

Jessica Jimenez, also a second-year pharmacy student from Torrance, Calif., says good communication is important between health care professionals from different disciplines.

“It makes us take responsibility in patient care,” she says. “We need to be prepared so that, once we are out in the real world, we feel confident in ourselves.”

Listed by hometown, students participating included:

2018-19 WWAMI Class

Big Piney -- Caleb Brackett.

Casper -- Marcus Couldridge and Conner Morton.

Cheyenne -- Trey Thompson, Aleksandra Zarzycka and Jacob Zumo.

Cody -- Amanda Golden, Sean McCue and Ryan Winchell.

Encampment -- Jesse Hinshaw.

Gillette -- Adam Blaine.

Jackson -- Alexis Anderson and Elliott Trott.

Laramie -- Allana Hall, Reno Maldonado and Renae Wollman.

Rock Springs -- Rida Fatima and Daulton Grube.

Sheridan -- Reed Ritterbusch.

Sinclair -- Logan Taylor.

Fay W. Whitney School of Nursing

Buffalo -- Nicole Thiele.

Fort Collins, Colo. -- Lance Wilde.

Gillette -- Crysta Sullivan.

Laramie -- James Clark.

School of Pharmacy

Alamosa, Colo. -- Mariah Smith.

Auburn, Wash. -- Kenneth Schaer.

Aurora, Colo. -- Kendall Fleer and Jennifer Fung.

Beaver, Utah -- Colby Limb.

Bingham, Neb. -- Jada Jensen.

Bishop, Calif. -- Kirsten Underwood.

Buffalo, N.Y. -- Carrie Monroe.

Casper -- Ellie Rone.

Cheyenne -- Melissa Hoang, Jayden McKay and Kristina Zaharas.

Denver, Colo. -- Emma Kaspersen.

Douglas -- Calee Notman.

East Lyme, Conn. -- Tyler Richards.

Greeley, Colo. -- Nick Sakala.

Green River -- Laken Mitchell.

Iran -- Sahel Rafiei.

Killeen, Texas -- Sidonie Gallinger.

Lawrenceville, Ill. -- Mercedes Grove.

Marietta, Ga. -- Aaron Lawson.

Northfield, Minn. -- Adam Ozmun.

Parker, Colo. -- Jessica Litch.

Pinedale -- Sonya Legerski.

Powell -- Danna Hanks.

Rapid City, S.D. -- Jeremy Schick.

Rawlins -- Laurie DeMillard and Brendan Gemelli.

Rock Springs -- Tyler Dewey and Mara Madsen.

Sidney, Neb. -- Victoria Brauer.



Contact Us

Institutional Communications
Bureau of Mines Building, Room 137
Laramie, WY 82071
Phone: (307) 766-2929

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