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Students from Three Health Science Majors Collaborate on Interprofessional Project

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William Paterson is putting its own spin on an education ideology commonly employed at medical schools. A pilot program launched during the fall 2016 semester brought together students in nursing, communication disorders and sciences, and exercise science for a multi-week project: developing an interprofessional comprehensive diagnosis and treatment plan for each of their case-study patients.

“We need to collaborate for that patient in the bed,” says Kem Louie, professor and graduate director of nursing and the driving force behind the pilot program. “Research shows, and from my nursing experience I know, that collaboration increases quality of care and improves patient outcomes. The more we can educate our students in this prior to graduation, the more likely they’ll be to inculcate that value as practitioners.”
Interprofessional Collaborative Education (IPE) has become more prevalent in medical education over the past decade, in line with a global health movement toward team-based patient care. In IPE settings, professors and students in medicine, dentistry, osteopathy, pharmacy, and public health, among others, teach and learn together. In professional practice, a physician often serves as team captain.

But Louie points out that nurse practitioners diagnose patients and manage their care, just as a physician would. “Also, once the patient is out of the hospital, in rehab and ready to go home, other specialists continue to manage that patient’s needs,” she explains.
Michael A. Figueroa, associate professor of kinesiology; Betty Kollia, professor of communication disorders and sciences; and Persephone
Vargas, assistant professor of nursing, taught the courses that teamed up for the pilot program. Students formed collaborative groups cutting across majors to develop IPE diagnoses and treatment plans for case-study patients requiring various degrees of nursing, speech/language/cognitive therapy, and physical rehabilitation.

The faculty colleagues are currently assessing the program and exploring ways to enhance IPE efforts going forward. For Ken Wolf, dean of the College of Science and Health, the program offers significant benefits for students of applied health. “Think of all the people you deal with when a patient is in the hospital —doctors, nurses, physical therapists, respiratory therapists,” he says. “If you expect to have a coordinated game plan and good outcome, those people need to know how to work together.”

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