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UW College of Health Sciences Continues Advancement of Interprofessional Education

November 8, 2021

The University of Wyoming College of Health Sciences continues its advancement of interprofessional education, recognizing the need to provide students from multiple disciplines a broad perspective of the complexities of patient care in the age of COVID-19.

A team of educators consisting of Dr. Yvette Haeberle, clinical curriculum director of the Wyoming-WWAMI Medical Education Program; Katelyn Kotlarek, an assistant professor in the Division of Communication Disorders; Lauren Biehle, a clinical associate professor in the School of Pharmacy; Eleanor Downey, director of the Division of Social Work; Grace Shearrer, an assistant professor in the Department of Family and Consumer Sciences; Kym Codallos, an associate lecturer in the Division of Social Work; and Melissa Denker, a speech-language pathologist at Cheyenne Regional Medical Center, along with over 80 students, recently took part in an event focused on the scenario of caring for a patient with a complex set of COVID-19 symptoms in a hospital setting.

In this four-part case study, students began by discussing their disciplines’ roles in this type of case and any potential bias that could contribute to the patient’s care. They also discussed the roles and responsibilities of each team member.

“Students met in small groups that were designed to have representation from multiple disciplines for a reflection of an interdisciplinary team in practice,” Biehle says. “They worked through clinical aspects of the case, such as medication recommendations and administration concerns, communication issues, decisions regarding nutrition and communication of significant patient-specific issues from their discipline’s perspective.”

One of the main goals of interprofessional education in the College of Health Sciences is to equip students from disciplines such as nursing, medical education, speech-language pathology, pharmacy, dietetics and social work with the knowledge that all of these professions collaborate in patient care. Additionally, many models of health care delivery have needed to be restructured as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

During this particular event, each of the four interprofessional collaborative core competencies was discussed in student groups along with faculty oversight, including roles and responsibilities, teams and teamwork, interprofessional communication and values/ethics. The students also discussed topics important in the care of older adults such as end-of-life considerations, advance directives and quality of life. After each small group meeting, faculty members facilitated a large group discussion of recommendations. Students then completed a brief reflection and provided feedback on the event.

Overall, student feedback was positive, with comments ranging from, “I thought this was an amazing experience and have never seen this coordination of care,” and “I gained new perspectives outside of my scope of practice,” to “Interdisciplinary teams are invaluable for comprehensive care.”

With the success of this event, the college’s interprofessional education team plans to coordinate additional events so all students pursuing careers in health care fields will have the knowledge and experience of interacting with and benefiting from an interdisciplinary health care team.

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