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Students in Health Professions Team up for Interprofessional Education Day

MONDAY, APRIL 29, 2019 - 7:00 AM Pharmacy and Health Sciences , All News

Athletes practice their sport before taking the field. Musicians rehearse before taking the concert stage. Recently, hundreds of students in a variety of health care fields put their skills to the test before entering their profession of choice.

More than 300 students, faculty, and staff from Western New England University and eight other institutions took part in an interprofessional education day across western Massachusetts. The event was designed to educate aspiring health professionals to work together across disciplines, incorporating students studying to become physicians, physician assistants, nurses, pharmacists, physical therapists, occupational therapists, and other health professionals.

"The complexity of health care in the United States has increased the need for health professionals to work together and create new models of team-based care," according to Beth Welch, associate dean for academic affairs at Western New England's College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences.

Western New England University served as one of the host sites for the effort, using volunteers to simulate different patient care experiences. In one scenario, health care teams provided ambulatory care to a patient diagnosed with a diabetic foot ulcer. Another session required students to treat a patient exhibiting signs of an opioid overdose using the drug Narcan.

"It's hands on, instead of us just listening and them telling us what happens in a situation we actually get a bit of experience seeing how a situation plays out in real life," said Adriene Gambles, a third-year pharmacy student at Western New England.

"I feel like when learning in a classroom it feels like you have time, where when you are in these situations playing it out you actually don't have that much time. You have to apply your knowledge right away."

Christine Dunkley, who is pursuing a Doctor of Occupational Therapy, agreed that students emerged from the experience feeling more prepared to handle the real thing. "I definitely have some tools in my pocket and I feel like I would be more confident if I was in this situation."

The opioid overdose simulation went beyond merely treating the emergency situation, including bedside training on what happens in the post-acute phase and a discussion of the social stigma of addiction using real-life images of those who recovered.

While the skills students pick up from the simulations are valuable, Welch says the interdisciplinary nature of the day's events is equally important. "Students not only learn with each other, but from each other as well, to enable effective collaboration and communication, improving health outcomes."

The Interprofessional Education Day event was coordinated by the Healthcare Workforce Partnership of Western Massachusetts and its Pioneer Valley Interprofessional Collaborative. Host institutions included Baystate Medical Center, Bay Path University, Holyoke Community College, Mercy Medical Center, Springfield College, and Western New England University's College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences.