DALLAS TWP. — If you’ve been to a few health care professionals for what you thought was one problem, you probably have the tale to tell: A surgeon here, a therapist there, a nurse somewhere else, but always the same questions asked, the same answers, the same prodding or poking or taking of vital signs.
The cost goes up as the time drags on and you wonder why they don’t just talk to each other.
Well, Misericordia University is part of a growing movement to reshape the health care experience by reshaping the classroom experience. It has developed an inter-professional education program for those in various health care majors — nurses, occupational therapists, physical therapists, medical imaging and speech pathology.
The goal is to give students a better understanding of how things work for people not in their specific profession but likely to be needed in a patient’s treatment. And the program has garnered attention. Leamor Kahanov, the dean of the college of health sciences and education, has been selected to make two scholarly presentations at a conference in Alberta, Canada, next month.
“This is occurring nationally because of the cost of health care, as well as a need to reduce redundancies and decrease errors,” Kahanov said.
As medical care becomes more specialized, professionals increasingly “operate in silos, and sometimes don’t know what others do, or have misperceptions about the other person’s work,” said Laurie Brogan, assistant professor of physical therapy. That can lead to redundancies, increased costs, and even to patients getting mixed messages.
By building inter-professional experiences into the education program for different health care degrees, students become “more aware of what they all contribute to the team. They practice open communication and are not just making assumptions,” Brogan said.
“They keep the patient at the center of it all,” Occupational Therapy Chair Lori Charney said.
Kahanov gave an example: A recovering stroke patient has multiple goals. The physical therapist may work to get the patient walking from bedroom to kitchen; an occupational therapist may focus on making a sandwich once there; a nurse would be controlling blood pressure. Yet all three are factors in getting to each goal.
“We want to make sure students understand what everyone’s role is,” Kahanov said. Inter-professional training can also assure than one specialist correctly refers a patient to another, because each better understands what the other does, she added.
It can reduce those repeated questions and tests, Brogan said. “They know who to get information from.”
And it can reduce friction among health care professionals, who may often argue over what each is expected to do. “There are so many skill sets these professionals have,” Brogan said. When they work together they realize “I wasn’t aware of them, and now I’m aware.”
Getting the inter-professional mindset into the classroom is important because “We find that learning it on the job, you have preconceived notions and biases that make it harder to pivot,” said Kahanov.
“We are preparing them to be agents of change,” Brogan added.