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Henrietta Schmoll School of Health convenes faculty panel on interprofessional healthcare

Faculty mentors in the Interprofessional Education Project speak about challenges in healthcare at Carondelet Village on Jan. 8, 2012.
Faculty mentors in the Interprofessional Education Project speak about challenges in healthcare at Carondelet Village on Jan. 8, 2012.
Photo by Melissa Kaelin.

When the Henrietta Schmoll School of Health convened a panel on the subject of interprofessional education at Carondelet Village in St. Paul, faculty and students alike stood to benefit from the conversation.

Through a collaboration between Carondelet Village and St. Catherine University, students, faculty and clinicians embarked in January on the Interprofessional Education Project (IPE) — a pilot project designed to combine the expertise from multiple healthcare professions to affect health outcomes in geriatric care.

For the project, students work on interprofessional teams to assist a resident, or elder teacher, of Carondelet Village, by reviewing their health status, discussing treatment plans and finding new ways to optimize the resident's health, independence and vitality.

Associate Professor Karen Sames, MBA, OTR/L, FAOTA, leads the educational component of the project, a course entitled "Topics in Interprofessional Education." She is one of three coordinators for the project, alongside Associate Dean Rebecca McGill, RN, MAOL '94, and Carondelet Village Program Administrator Georgia Lane, LGSW.

Students in the course, at both the undergraduate and graduate level, represent six different healthcare fields, including baccalaureate nursing, nurse practitioner, physician assistant, physical therapy, occupational therapy and social work. They are paired with faculty mentors and clinical mentors, and are set to gain 50 hours of clinical experience on interprofessional teams by the project's conclusion in May.

The need for interprofessional healthcare

On Jan. 8, 2013, the faculty mentors for the Interprofessional Education Project held a panel discussion with students to describe their professions and address the need for interprofessional collaboration in the workplace.

Faculty provided perspectives from both education and practice, bringing unique experiences from careers as a social worker, a nurse, a nurse practitioner, a physical therapist, an occupational therapist, and a physician assistant to the table.

Each faculty member gave an overview of their profession and the licensure required to work in Minnesota. Then they dove in, addressing complex issues and answering questions from students entering the same professions.

"Our origins had to do with pediatrics and the collaboration of physicians. Nurse practitioners would not exist were it not for the collaboration of physicians," said Mary LaGaard, DNP, CNP, RN, assistant professor of nursing at St. Catherine University.

Throughout the discussion, commonalities were found among every profession represented, and many questions were answered about the parade of acronyms that marches down medical hallways.

“We are in a time now in our field too where we’re seeing some change with interprofessional care and healthcare system change, in that we are starting more and more to not just work with PTAs as physical therapists, but bring into our team athletic trainers, massage therapists and physical trainers," said Assistant Professor Deborah Madanayake, PT, JD, GCS.

IPE in practice

Heather Bidinger, MMS, PA-C, the founding program director of the Master of Physician Assistant Studies program at St. Catherine University, recalled an experience working on an interprofessional project 12 years ago.

"When you look at how all these students from different disciplines were working together... There's a lot of overlap," said Bidinger. "I think that really opened my eyes in terms of practicing, of when I should be thinking to involve other people in the healthcare team that I otherwise wouldn't have done."

Dialogue ranged from the care of various populations—whether neonatal, pediatric, or geriatric—to types of care, ranging from palliative care to acute care and ambulatory care.

“Nursing on the RN level really is an interprofessional function,” said Scott Eddy MA ‘10, RN, ONC, assistant professor of nursing at St. Kate’s. “If we can function interprofessionally, I think that’s where the client or patient really is going to receive the most benefit."

Faculty also touched on teaching methodology, noting which professions are typically built on which models.

"I think we teach students in a little bit of a different way," said Bidinger. "Physician assistant education really truly has been built up from a medical model, where a nurse practitioner student has come from a nursing model. So we kind of intersect in a common spot."

Madanayake took the models a step further, advising students to try to keep that learning in the front of their minds in clinical situations.

"In OT and PT, we work from what's called the disablement or ablement model," said Madanayake. "Just to be aware that we're trained to look at things from different eyes, ears, is really valuable: To lay that out on the table when we're trying to problem-solve together."

Learning from elder teachers

The IPE project in Carondelet Village is focused on geriatric care, using a flexible concept of teacher and learner in recognition of the wisdom residents will bring to students and faculty. 

"Aging is not a social problem," said Rochelle Rottenberg, MSW, LISW, a faculty member of the joint St. Catherine University and University of St. Thomas School of Social Work. "It's a developmental stage. It's normal. If we're lucky, we'll all get to be elderly adults. There are subtle influences, life-long messages that people have taken in."

Rottenberg encouraged students to approach their work with the elder teachers with respect. As a social worker, she brought to the table a keen sense of the dignity of the human individual.

"We have to be very self-aware of our own biases in how we see elderly people," she said.

She encouraged students to look at the strengths individuals bring to healthcare situations.

"Not only is the generalist practice emphasized, but also what we call the strengths perspective," said Rottenberg. "Often it's up to us not only to say 'Hey, what's wrong?' but 'What's right? What does this person have going for them? What do they bring?'

"After all, people have had 70 to 80 years of being able to manage. What are some of the assets and what are some of the problems?"

'Other professions as collaborators'

The panel on interprofessional healthcare took place during an initial two-week training program for a course entitled Topics in Interprofessional Education, a component of the IPE project. After the initial two weeks of the project, students will work on interprofessional teams, under the guidance of faculty mentors, clinical mentors and elder teachers to discover the benefits of interprofessional healthcare.

Students will reflect and record their experience throughout the project, then participate in two panel presentations describing their interprofessional experience and the implementation of Enquiry-Based Learning.

The presentations will be given on Feb. 14, 2013, and May 9, 2013, at Carondelet Village.

“I’m hoping that this experience will be an opportunity to understand better how we can use other professions as collaborators,” said LaGaard.

Jan. 15, 2013 by Melissa Kaelin

See also: Faculty, Healthcare, Social Justice