Published April 25, 2013
When multiple health workers from different professional backgrounds work as a team with patients, families, caregivers and communities to deliver the highest quality of health care across disciplines, patient care and patient satisfaction improve and medical errors decrease.
But this kind of collaboration and communication doesn’t always happen and it isn’t innate. Rather, it requires focused curricula, training and simulated practice.
To address this need, the University at Buffalo Academic Health Center (AHC) in collaboration with the School of Social Work has established an Office of Interprofessional Education (UB IPE) to educate, train and simulate—in controlled environments—how AHC students can best work across health disciplines, while offering similar training to local community health care agencies.
Michael E. Cain, vice president for health sciences and dean of the School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, says UB IPE’s establishment is all about improving health outcomes for patients in Western New York.
“As a first step we wanted to engage both academic and clinical practice communities in IPE to build a culture of interprofessional collaborative practice within health care facilities in the region so that our ultimate goal of improved patient outcomes is realized,” Cain says.
On April 23, UB’s Academic Health Center and M&T Bank hosted the “Interprofessional Education and Western New York Health Care Leadership Forum.” Cain and Paul Wietig, UB IPE’s newly appointed assistant vice president, brought together 50 leaders from community health care; UB administration and faculty, and area businesses for presentations by nationally recognized IPE experts.
Guest speakers at the forum were Barbara F. Brandt, associate vice president for education in the University of Minnesota Academic Health Center (via video); Frank Cerra, senior adviser and interim deputy director for the National Center for Interprofessional Practice and Education, and former senior vice president for health sciences and medical school dean at the University of Minnesota; and Madeline H. Schmitt, a nurse sociologist and professor emerita at the University of Rochester, where she was professor and Independence Foundation Chair in Nursing and Interprofessional Education.
Why IPE and why now?
A presentation slide during Cerra’s talk demonstrated the “old model,” whose schematic showed a circle of caregivers and health professionals surrounding a “center”—meaning the physician. Cerra said that with IPE, the physician’s central position would, by necessity, change.
Cerra also pointed to the “Framework for Action on Interprofessional Education and Collaborative Practice,” a 2010 report issued by the World Health Organization (WHO) Study Group. At a time when the world is facing a shortage of health workers and health care is increasing in its complexity, policymakers seek innovative strategies that can help them develop policy and programs to bolster the global health workforce, the WHO report noted.
One of the report’s key messages concluded that collaborative practice—the kind IPE fosters—strengthens health systems and improves health outcomes.
According to Cerra, UB is uniquely positioned to offer this kind of education and training in part because UB’s Behling Simulation Center was founded on the principles of IPE and collaborative practice. Furthermore, it can offer simulations that provide the kind of “non-threatening learning environments” where members of the health care team learn how to work together, listen to each other and share responsibility for patient outcomes.
Moreover, today’s practice of medical students learning among other medical students, nursing students learning among fellow nursing students, and so on, will be enriched by establishing interprofessional student health teams comprising nursing, medical, dental, pharmacy, physical therapy, occupational therapy, social work, public health, and perhaps additional types of professional students in simulated environments where the patient is now at the center of the circle.
In addition, UB will be offering interprofessional continuing education to the community of health workers so that they can engage in, or more fully engage in, collaborative practice.
Wietig says UB IPE will offer its first three-day course for health professionals, educators and leaders called “ehpic 2013: Advancing the Future of Health Care through Interprofessional Learning” to be offered to select participants on May 14-16 at the Ramada Conference Center on North Forest Road in Amherst.
“We are beginning to offer IPE experiences for health sciences and social work students and will soon be integrating IPE into their professional curricula—all to strengthen the health of Western New York communities,” Wietig says.
More information on UB IPE and its course offerings is available by emailing Paul Wietig firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 716-829-6169.