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First collegewide interprofessional education launched

Brittney Meyer
Brittney Meyer

Students from the College of Pharmacy and Allied Health Professions participated in the first collegewide interprofessional education activity Oct. 5-6, 2021. Respiratory care, medical lab science, Master of Public Health and first-year pharmacy students came together to learn about social determinants of health.

This interprofessional education activity not only allowed them to learn about this important topic that spans all healthcare professions, but it allowed them to learn from and with each other as well, which is the basis of interprofessional education.

Students, located throughout the state and country, met virtually using Zoom for the 2 1-/2 hour activity. With the goals of the activity to identify the roles and responsibilities of each discipline and the impact of teamwork on patient care, Aaron Hunt, Master of Public Health program coordinator, started the session encouraging students to consider how to solve a current issue facing patients today regarding COVID-19.

Students placed in interdisciplinary groups

Students were placed in small interdisciplinary groups to discuss their roles and responsibilities while working together to determine how the team could solve the issue. Faculty from all four disciplines within the college were represented to help facilitate the group work. After a time of debriefing and sharing solutions, the concepts of social determinants of health were introduced.

Students then played an educational board game created to help participants gain a better understanding of social determinants of health and the relationship between forces impacting a patient at both the individual and community levels regarding socioeconomic status, race, gender, sexual orientation and several other factors. Students discovered the impact social determinants of health had on affecting their character’s health. 

Hunt said, “Research has shown that the social determinants of health, which are the environments in which we grow, work, play and live, have the most impact on poor health outcomes. All our programs emphasize the need to ensure that all health science students understand the importance of the social determinants of health and how it requires interprofessional collaboration to help people get the assistance they need to be healthy.

“For example, a patient will not be able to go to an appointment if they do not have transportation or may not take their medicine if they don’t have enough money to afford it.

“These issues can be addressed through assistance programs, but we need all health professionals to be aware and promote the use and collaborate with each other to improve health. This is what we focused on educating students about during our event and will continue to integrate into our programs.”

Plans for next session already in place

While this was the first interprofessional education activity for many of these students, interprofessional education is not new to the college.

Many of the programs within the college interact with nursing students and other health disciplines in interprofessional education activities throughout their respective curriculum, but Dean Dan Hansen recommended taking advantage of the opportunity to work together within the college to provide this experience.

Earlier this year, a group of faculty from across the college came together to participate in the Interprofessional Education Collaborative Faculty Development Institute. This team-based, virtual program engaged participants in learning about the core competencies of interprofessional teamwork and in developing an implementation plan for their institution.

The team was made up of Hunt, Alex Middendorf representing pharmacy, Jill Olson representing respiratory care, and Kassi Erickson representing medical laboratory science. This social determinants of health activity was a direct outcome of their work during this institute. The team worked together to overcome common challenges faced when developing such events, including content, logistics and varying levels of learners. 

With the success of this first college-wide event, additional interprofessional education activities are being developed. The team plans to focus on patient care and preventative measures around opioid-use disorders for next semester.