As the complexity of patient care grows and health care specialization advances, clinicians from all sorts of disciplines and backgrounds must learn how to come together and work effectively with one another.
So how are tomorrow’s health care professionals mastering the ins and outs of interprofessional collaboration, a key component of the ANCC Magnet Model?
Many are not, at least formally. According to a recent article in Nurse Educator, this essential skill is seldom taught as students prepare for professional practice.
“Although effective teamwork is assumed within the health care setting,” the writers observe, “formal training in teamwork is largely absent in the curricula.”
Effective interdisciplinary collaboration doesn’t simply contribute to a pleasant, happier workplace. (Although it certainly reduces scores on the stress scale. And who doesn’t appreciate that?)
Effective collaboration is intertwined with the mission of every health care provider out there: patient safety and quality care. When collaboration is compromised, patients are, too.
“The Joint Commission cites ineffective communication among teams as a primary cause for sentinel events in the care of patients at a time when communication has been found to be an essential component to effective teamwork,” the article states.
Consequently, groups such as the Institute of Medicine (IOM), World Health Organization (WHO), Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN), and American Association of Medical Colleges (AAMC) promote productive teamwork as a way to better patient care.
Loyola University Chicago recently got intentional in its efforts to ensure its nursing and medical students learn how to work productively with other caregivers by implementing interprofessional education.
“Interprofessional education,” explain the writers — faculty from the nursing and medical schools there, “is a collaborative approach to learning teamwork that helps students to develop and understand their own professional identity while gaining an appreciation of other professionals.”
Here’s what interprofessional education at Loyola looks like: In their fourth year of study, medical and nursing students learn about the TeamSTEPPS patient safety training program, which was jointly developed by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality and the Department of Defense. The evidence-based program is designed to improve communication and teamwork among health care professionals.
After completing an online TeamSTEPPS module, small groups of medical and nursing students enter the simulation lab together, where they run through two scenarios with high-fidelity patient mannequins that challenge their clinical — and teamwork —skills. Debriefings with faculty provide students with feedback on their performance employing various TeamSTEPPS strategies.
“These specific strategies provide a structured framework for a health care provider to speak up and communicate in a clear, professional manner regarding a safety concern to another health care provider,” the authors write. “Rehearsal of these strategies shifts the communication advocacy from an emotional to a cognitive experience, providing more power to raise a concern with a person of authority.”
In between the first and second simulation session, students receive an hour-long reinforced learning session led by nursing and medical faculty to reinforce TeamSTEPPS principles. Teams that fail to meet a minimum score on the second simulation must repeat it.
The interprofessional education that nursing and medical students gain extends beyond what occurs in the sim lab.
“A team of nursing and medical faculty is purposely involved throughout the entire experience to model interprofessional behaviors and ensure that the individual learning needs of students are met,” the article points out.
Seeing their nursing and medicine professors interact respectfully, confidently and proficiently provides a real-world picture of interprofessional collaboration at work. Any us-vs.-them mentality the students may hold is consequently transformed into an outlook of “we.”
“The universal perspective of ’we’ sets the tone for the faculty implementing the interprofessional education sessions,” the authors write. “By acknowledging and sharing with the students the great opportunity this experience allows for cross teaching, medical students can learn from nursing faculty, and nursing students can learn from medical faculty. This challenges the prevailing paradigm that students can and should learn only from faculty within their own discipline. This opportunity also provided a venue for nursing and medical students to learn from each other.”
If tomorrow’s health professionals can get that down, the future of patient care will be all the brighter.