Acing your courses might be a solitary activity, but keeping patients healthy isn’t something one person can do alone. That was the takeaway for pharmacy student Alfred Awuah and more than 250 students in three other disciplines who worked together Oct. 24 in an experiential learning scenario designed to foster interprofessional collaboration throughout their careers.
The event, funded in part by the Georgia Learning Through Interprofessional Development Experience, or GLIDE, program in the Provost’s Office, was designed to mimic real-life interdisciplinary work and show students how to work together in a team to address an issue. It brought together students from four academic programs: the Augusta University/UGA Medical Partnership, College of Pharmacy, School of Social Work and the Augusta University College of Nursing, which has a campus in Athens.
“As a pharmacy student, I’m obviously thinking about the best medicine to treat the pain and the patient’s depression,” Awuah said of the scenario, which involved a woman with a broken arm and compartment syndrome who students later learned may have been a victim of domestic violence. “With the social work students, we started thinking about, ‘is it the most cost-effective treatment?’ and ‘what about readmission?’”
Susan Fagan, Distinguished Research Professor, Albert W. Jowdy Professor of Pharmacy Care and assistant dean in the College of Pharmacy, said she has dreamed of bringing students together for some time because she believes that teamwork can transform health care delivery.
“All of our professions work in silos. We are learning similar things, but we don’t learn together,” she said. “These students are the future of health care. We are hoping we can change things by starting at this level.”
Coordinating among different schools and colleges, different campuses and even two universities wasn’t easy, but Fagan said that the support from the GLIDE program and the Provost’s Office helped make the collaboration possible.
“This is difficult but necessary,” she said, adding that she hopes other units across campus take advantage of the interdisciplinary grant program. “I think all of us benefit when we work together, respect each other and consider other perspectives. Teamwork is required to solve many of the biggest challenges of our world.”
Brannon Hicks, a first-year medical student in the Augusta University/UGA Medical Partnership, said the event taught him a lot about other professions and how they can provide resources for patients that physicians can’t.
“We have to understand the full spectrum,” he said, adding that his fellow students helped him to see how working with others can enhance his practice of medicine and ability to provide quality care to patients. “It’s a good thing to know what everybody does and how they can help. It’s eye-opening.”
Elizabeth Lally is pursuing a doctorate to become a nurse practitioner at the Augusta University campus in Athens while also working part time in the emergency department of St. Mary’s Hospital. She said that she has seen firsthand how patient care can improve when the entire team works well together.
“It’s interesting to see where we see things the same and where we see things differently,” she said. “We all want the same outcome; we all want our patients to benefit. Communication and interdisciplinary teamwork help to make that possible.”
The health care exercise was the first to benefit from GLIDE program grant funding, but Russ Mumper, vice provost for academic affairs and chair of UGA’s interprofessional leadership committee, said he believes that the program will benefit students across campus.
“Interprofessional education has been firmly established and affirmed in the health professions as a necessary practice to prepare future health professionals to improve team-based patient care and health outcomes,” Mumper said. “However, we are also very interested in expanding interprofessional education to disciplines beyond the health professions where diverse teams are needed to address very complex problems.”