Teamwork is the key to patient-centered care
By Nate Hinkel
Inside a newly refurbished community health center near campus, UAMS students are honing their skills as critical members of the next generation of health care teams that are changing the way care is delivered.
Future pharmacists, speech pathologists, dental hygienists, nurses and other UAMS students across all areas of campus are working side by side providing wellness services to a community in need.
At the same time, they are practicing effective teamwork and team-based care. That requires moving beyond profession-specific educational efforts to engage students of different professions in interactive learning with each other.
“Being able to work effectively as a member of clinical teams while still a student is a fundamental part of that learning,” said Jeanne Heard, M.D., Ph.D., vice chancellor for academic affairs at UAMS. “New approaches to health care, such as the ‘medical home’ and ‘patient- and family-centered care’ concepts, are required to achieve better outcomes in primary care, especially for high-risk chronically ill and other at-risk populations. Improved interprofessional teamwork and team-based care play core roles in these approaches.”
With the goal of creating this seamless integration of health professions, all areas — from classroom to simulation, to clinic to practice — are coming together to help UAMS forge into the future as a team.
Center of Learning
When a historic brick building adorning the corner of 12th and Center streets in midtown Little Rock was donated by alumni to the UAMS College of Pharmacy last year, visions of an interprofessional student-led health and wellness center were set in motion.
Lanita White, Pharm.D., was hired as director to lead the 12th Street Health and Wellness Center toward a more inclusive approach to health care.
“In a relatively short amount of time, we had the makings of a true all-inclusive effort to get this center up and running,” White said. “We had people donating chairs and supplies from one part of campus, and others coming in to paint walls from another part of campus … and that was just to get the building ready to serve the community.”
The interprofessional center that opened in January includes services by students and faculty across the UAMS colleges of Pharmacy, Medicine, Public Health, Nursing, Health Professions and the Graduate School. The center will be run by students and provide preventive health care, particularly heart health, as well as consultations and screenings for chronic health conditions and information for healthy living.
Since its opening, the UAMS 12th Street Health and Wellness Center has added a dentistry component with dental hygiene students and speech, and audiology services with speech pathology and audiology students. More services are in the works, with aims of one day becoming a full-fledged clinic.
“It’s exciting because our students are getting out in the community. They’re volunteering and giving their knowledge freely,” she said. “This generation of students is committed to serving the community and promoting health and wellness.”
And that, said UAMS Chancellor Dan Rahn, M.D., is the cornerstone of interprofessional education.
“This effort signifies everything that UAMS is about,” said Rahn. “It brings together students and faculty from across campus and offers it directly where it’s needed most in the community. Our mission at UAMS is to make a difference in the delivery of health care to Arkansans, and this new center is an innovative bridge that enables us to do that.”
Leading the Team
Last summer, UAMS hired experienced academic administrator Diane Skinner, Ed.D., M.P.H., to be director of interprofessional education and lead this new effort to develop educational experiences and programs that promote collaboration across health care disciplines.
Skinner works in partnership with students and faculty from across campus and provides leadership in needs assessment, implementation, and evaluation of interprofessional activities.
“It all starts with the faculty and what we’ve found is that the students are very open to interactive and experiential learning in IPE,” she said.
Skinner is working with a campus-wide committee of interprofessional and academic leaders to plan a course that will lay the groundwork for interprofessional education. Students will learn about each others’ professions and the skills needed for effective collaboration within the context of such topics as health and health care disparities.
Skinner said others are writing grants to support interprofessional education within their areas. The Department of Geriatrics has submitted a grant, “Geriatrics-Focused Interprofessional Training in the Patient Centered Medical Home Model,” to the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation.
The UAMS Clinical Skills and Simulation Center is planning a “Sim Wars” event to reinforce interprofessional teamwork.
“Case scenarios will require a team of students from different health care professions to successfully solve the cases,” Skinner said. “Several teams will compete to solve these cases and put their interprofessional skills to the test.”
The competition is in front of a live audience that will vote on the winners.
An integral piece to any implementation, said Skinner, is to look at other schools that are successfully doing this. The University of Washington’s Brenda Zierler, Ph.D., R.N., co-director of the Center for Health Science Interprofessional Education, Research and Practice, is considered a national leader. In May, she will share with UAMS her experience at the Seattle-based institution that has been interprofessionally educating students for nearly 15 years.
Skinner and UAMS College of Pharmacy Dean Stephanie F. Gardner, Pharm.D., Ed.D., traveled to the Medical University of South Carolina in January to observe their Interprofessional Day involving nearly all first- and second- year students and to learn more about their interprofessional course taken by nearly all first-year students.
Bring it Back
The trip came after Gardner was named an American Council on Education (ACE) Fellow for academic year 2012-13.
The prestigious ACE Fellows Program, established in 1965, is designed to strengthen institutions and leadership in American higher education by identifying and preparing promising senior faculty and administrators for responsible positions in college and university administration. ACE Fellows visit other campuses and work closely with a president at another institution and bring those experiences back to implement them on their own campus. Gardner was selected for the elite group of 57 Fellows who were nominated by the presidents or chancellors of their institutions.
Gardner chose to go to Charleston, S.C., to see a flourishing interprofessional program firsthand at the Medical University of South Carolina.
“Faculty members there have been willing to share materials and experiences that have worked with their students. This will be invaluable as we plan our interprofessional curriculum,” Gardner said. “I focused on identifying best practices and am now working with Dr. Heard and the deans in each college to foster the further development of interprofessional education at UAMS.”
Gardner said others in leadership at UAMS are supportive and receptive to her experience, and she’s eager to get to work.
“It works, and I’m excited to see it work here at UAMS,” Gardner said. “It all starts with the students, and their enthusiasm is contagious. I am optimistic that with the success of the 12th Street Center and other initiatives in the works that we can establish a top-notch interprofessional education program.”