Students Find Teamwork Is Best for Patient Care
Published November 2007
Pharmacy student Heidi McDavid wasn’t sure what to expect when she signed up for an interdisciplinary class that would have her working with students from allied health sciences, nursing and social work.
What she gained was more confidence in her own profession and a greater respect for other health care professionals. And the experience came before she began clinical training.
McDavid is one of nearly 100 students who have taken an interdisciplinary case study class for students from the colleges of allied health sciences, nursing, pharmacy and the school of social work.
“The course’s goal is to expose students to multiple health care disciplines and encourage them to work as a team to create a comprehensive patient care plan,” says Bonnie Brehm, PhD, a professor in the College of Nursing.
Eight faculty members teach the elective course, called Case Studies in Interdisciplinary Health Care. The course is offered during winter quarter and open to any student interested in health care.
Students meet for 2.5 hours once a week to discuss realistic patient cases—those they might actually encounter in a clinical setting. The class is divided into diverse teams representing various health care professions.
Each team member shares how his or her profession would treat the patient based on the patient’s diagnosis, education and culture, such as use and/or belief in herbal therapies, complementary medicine and healers.
“Health care providers can’t assume that a patient’s beliefs are the same as theirs,” says Bethanne Brown, PharmD, assistant professor in the James L. Winkle College of Pharmacy. “As the U.S. becomes even more diverse, it’s increasingly importantly to take a patient’s cultural beliefs into consideration when developing a treatment plan.”
After each team discusses the case and develops a treatment plan, one team presents their plan to the class—which often leads to additional discussion. The course also features guest speakers who share their experiences and insights from working in health care or a related field, such as a community activist working with a specific population.
“Most students are not exposed to other health care professionals until they begin clinical rotations,” says McDavid.
“During this class, I worked with students studying nursing, social work, nutrition and other fields. It was such a unique experience because you are exposed to coursework different than your own and you get a better understanding of what each other does.”
McDavid says the class helped her learn how to communicate more effectively with other health care professionals and to value their skills and input on providing good patient care.
Megan Schweller, RN, a recent college of nursing graduate who now works at University Hospital, says she was surprised and impressed by the level of knowledge students in other disciplines had on nursing topics.
“There are many common misconceptions in the health care field regarding the roles and responsibilities of different disciplines,” says Schweller.
“People seemed genuinely interested in understanding each other’s disciplines and how one another approaches patient care.”
McDavid, now a fourth-year pharmacy student, agrees.
“There are a number of communication barriers that exist in health care today. This class is a good way to help people entering the health care profession overcome them earlier in their career.”
For more information on this course, including how to enroll, contact a participating faculty member:
• College of Allied Health Sciences: Nancy Steinberg Warren, Phyllis Breen and Rebecca Smith
• College of Nursing: Bonnie Brehm, PhD, and Judy Laver Bierschbach
• Winkle College of Pharmacy: Bethanne Brown, PharmD, and Andrea Wall
• School of Social Work: Ruth Anne Van Loon, PhD.