Thanks to a unique working relationship among Indiana University Northwest’s various College of Health and Human Services disciplines, both students and residents of surrounding communities are reaping the benefits of the schools’ innovative cross-disciplinary curriculum.
In the real world, professionals from across disciplines collaborate frequently in order to do their jobs effectively and provide the best care possible for those they serve. Similarly, through the Interprofessional Education Program (IPE), students in the fields of nursing, social work, dental education, public affairs and medicine collaborate in order to work effectively together in order to serve the needs of their respective clients and communities.
Dr. Patrick Bankston, Ph.D., assistant dean and director of the IUSM-NW, and dean of the College of Health and Human Services at IU Northwest, said the program was designed to provide team-based learning and outreach exercises that promote better understanding and communication between healthcare practitioners. Surprisingly, he said, this kind of basic information is missing from the curriculums of many professional schools.
“Most often what is learned about the other professions is anecdotal,” Bankston said. “The result is that members of the healthcare team have at best a rudimentary understanding, and at worst a misunderstanding, of what other members bring to the table. This in turn leads to failures of communication, mistakes with patients and less respectful relationships between team members.
“At IU Northwest and IUSM-NW,” Bankston said, “we want to work collaboratively to attack this basic problem at its roots. The students need to know what their colleagues are trained to do well if they are going to respect each other as vital members of the healthcare team.”
One successful example of interdisciplinary collaboration is the Healthy Path program, currently in its second year.
Last fall, students across disciplines worked together to set up “health-check” stations along the walking track at Gleason Golf Course just west of campus. Student nurses took community members’ blood pressure, checked height and weight, and performed other wellness checks, while other CHHS students and even community health groups provided useful health information to passers-by.
The event was well-received, and students will again be working to bring this much-needed service to Gleason walking path again this fall, possibly with more screenings offered.
“The program gives students valuable experience working with the public and with each other, while also providing a welcome service to the many local community members who exercise at the Gleason course,” said IU Northwest Clinical Assistant Professor Karen Bertram, who is an advisor to the Healthy Path program.
After a successful first year with Healthy Path, the schools are now looking to expand their outreach and experiential learning initiatives.
During the Fall 2013 semester, medical students will attend a seminar to educate them on the nursing profession and what nurses contribute to the healthcare team. Linda Delunas, Ph.D., director of the School of Nursing, will describe the nursing education program and curriculum, nursing student clinical experiences, different clinical venues in which nurses function and what special expertise they bring to the healthcare experience for patients and the healthcare team.
The nursing seminar is just one of many reciprocal talks that will be happening across the university’s health units over the next two years, Bankston said. Students will hear similar talks about the professions of physician, social worker, health administrator, dental hygienist, health information management professional, radiological technologist.
“The Interprofessional Education idea all came from the idea of healthcare errors and how they are largely avoidable and are due to miscommunication of one sort or another,” Bankston said. “So programs like these help to educate the students about each other’s roles in the healthcare process, and they help to educate the community, too.”