Something that I had not planned on for my final year of coursework in the physical therapy (PT) program at Springfield College was an Interprofessional Education, or IPE, course in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The opportunity to take this class came up somewhat randomly, and I decided, “why not?” This course has now been offered for the past three years in the Springfield area.
I was pleasantly surprised at what I took away from this course. Filing into a random building at another college’s campus, a few PT classmates and I found ourselves wandering into a room with nursing, pharmacy, physician’s assistant (PA), and occupational therapy (OT) students, all from a handful of local college and university programs. At this point, I wasn’t sure what to expect but was excited to explore the possibilities.
I’m confident that my other classmates in this IPE course would agree that we thoroughly enjoyed this experience together. Working with professors from different colleges and universities in various professions, we completed workshops, simulations, discussions, and conversations at our weekly class meetings.
Our first in-person experience was a simulation entitled “Room of Horrors,” in which we worked as an interprofessional team to figure out what was wrong and potentially dangerous in a patient room. I picked up on a few red flags from a physical therapy perspective but was stumped beyond that. The pharmacy, PA, and nursing students were rattling off warning signs that I would have never considered or didn’t even know what they meant. My eyes were quickly opened to what is covered in the scope of practice of the other students’ professions that I was not aware of before. Without the input of the others, especially regarding medications and hospital protocol I was unfamiliar with, I would have missed half of the “red flag” hints around the patient room. By communicating each of our finds to a designated scribe, we composed a solid list and succeeded quickly and efficiently as a team to avert errors in the patient simulation.
Other class sessions were filled with team-building activities that focused on communication and working as a unit. One of the core competencies of interprofessional education is the roles and responsibilities of team members, and I learned so much about the other professions that I would not have known otherwise. I found this so beneficial because now I can go into the workforce with a better understanding of what differentiates OT from PT, how much nurses cover in patient care, and the role of pharmacists interprofessionally. This simple communication allowed me to understand how to approach certain providers in the future and prepare for interprofessional collaboration. Communication is another core competency in IPE, and we were able to practice speaking amongst team members numerous times and engage key listening skills.
The other students were surprised to discover how much the physical therapy curriculum overlapped with their own educational journeys. This surprised me as well, as obviously I know what my future profession entails, but the PA and nursing students did not know we covered coursework about wound care, medications, and cardiopulmonary rehabilitation. We all came to realize what we had in common and see our differences, both education-based and professionally.
Another memorable class was an escape room we completed in the simulation lab. We had to complete puzzles (aka solve patient situations) as a team to eventually unlock the patient case. This was another scenario in which I found that working as a group made the whole experience more efficient. By actively communicating and establishing designated roles for each team member, we finished all the puzzles in our escape room experience.
The main takeaway I have from this IPE course is that being able to communicate with other professions is beneficial for your own job and for patient care and safety. I loved working on a team in the simulations and activities we completed because it showed me how much we know and can solve while putting multiple brains together. Multiple people working together know more and can work together to help improve patient care.
It is great to be confident in your knowledge and abilities, but it is even greater to be confident in your effectiveness as a team member.
Author: Laura Volan, PT/S, Springfield College
Participating schools: WNEU Pharmacy and OT, Elms College nursing, Springfield College PT and PA
Faculty: Dr. Beth Welch (WNEU), Dr. Liz Montemagni (SC), Dr. Melissa Mattison (WNEU)
Contact: Melissa Mattison, PharmD, Western New England University at firstname.lastname@example.org