Meeting the Challenges and Complexities of Today’s Health Care System

School of Nursing faculty in skills lab with IPE students

Dr. Gayle Timmerman

It isn’t often one gets a chance to make major social and public health policy changes — such as transforming the U.S. health care system — but at The University of Texas at Austin School of Nursing, faculty, students and interprofessional partners across campus are doing just that.

As the U.S. population ages and more Americans are living with chronic illnesses, a more collaborative, team-based health care approach is needed to improve patient outcomes. By incorporating interprofessional education (IPE) into its curriculum, the School of Nursing is establishing a method for students and professionals involved in providing social services and health care opportunities to learn together and from each other in order to cultivate collaborative practice for providing evidence-based, patient-centered, team-based care.

The National Institutes of Health have stated that collaboration and teamwork among health professionals are vital aspects to the successful delivery of high-quality patient care, and a landmark report recently published by the Institute of Medicine emphasized that efforts to improve health care delivery will need to incorporate IPE in health care workforce education and training.

“It’s hard to change after years of doing things a certain way, but we’re deliberately moving away from our academic silos to provide students with the tools they need to work seamlessly in interprofessional teams,” said Gayle Timmerman, PhD, RN, CNS, FAAN and chair for the Dell Medical School IPE Subcommittee. “Health care is complex, and in order to achieve the best outcomes for patients, it’s necessary to bring each discipline’s unique perspective to the table.”

One very practical way the School of Nursing is promoting IPE is by initiating UT-IPE — a newly launched website providing a centralized location for IPE information.

The website offers opportunities to participate in IPE, resources that facilitate IPE, and information about the core Interprofessional Collaborative Practice Competencies for preceptors, faculty, and students in the health professions through videos and links.

The goal in launching the website is to help remove a variety of communication barriers that arise when busy providers, students, faculty and preceptors try to coordinate with each other by providing a convenient clearinghouse for IPE information and strategies, explained Dr. Timmerman.

Earlier this year an IPE event sponsored by the Office of Institutional Accreditation and Program Assessment titled “Assessing Student Outcomes in the Health Professions: An Inter-professional Public Responsibility” brought together about 90 representatives from the Dell Medical School, the School of Nursing, the College of Pharmacy and the School of Social Work to address the assessment of student outcomes within the different health professional schools and colleges, among other objectives.

“As a health care team member and faculty, I was delighted to listen to the commonalities of the interprofessional team roles in both the clinical and educational setting. Each profession presented how its unique skill contributed to improved health and educational outcomes,” said Carol Delville, assistant professor of clinical nursing, who attended. “This discussion extended to the complexities of student evaluation and the strategies used by the different professional educators, from screening applicants, to student feedback in both formal and informal settings throughout the curriculum.

“The most interesting part of the day was the breakout sessions during which participants had opportunities to discuss management of high-risk and difficult situations with other health care professional educators. Sharing these ‘educational pearls’ during the debriefing session provided concrete examples to apply to classroom and clinical settings this semester,” Dr. Delville added.

student in skills lab

IPE teams comprise student nurses, social workers, pharmacists and biomedical engineering

IPE and team building are becoming essential parts of preparing tomorrow’s health care professionals. The Dell Medical School, scheduled to open on the UT Austin campus in 2016, has stated a commitment to “improving human health through excellence in interprofessional and trans-disciplinary education, research, health care and community involvement.” The new medical school will be unique in taking this foundational approach to IPE.

The School of Nursing’s integration of IPE into its curriculum was advanced last summer by a $1 million grant from the Health Resources and Services Administration. Initial funding for the website was made possible by the grant.

UT Austin departments, colleges, and organizations that host events, lectureships, and opportunities related to IPE are encouraged to submit events to the website calendar.

For more information about upcoming events and links to resources, be sure to visit UT-IPE.

Photos by Brian Birzer, Birzer Photography

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