Changing the system
Historically, universities have compartmentalized health profession students: nurses in nursing schools, physicians in medical schools, pharmacists in pharmacy schools, and social workers in schools of social work.
Liz Bates, who earned a master’s degree in communication sciences and disorders in May, saw collaborative care in her clinical placements.
“When health care providers are communicating with each other, it makes assessments and treatment plans much easier to implement, and providers are able to deliver treatment more quickly,” Bates says.
Dr. Joan Wynn, chief quality officer for Vidant Health in Greenville, says the future of primary care isn’t a lone practitioner but team-based providers. “Studies show that training in teams is an effective strategy to prevent poor outcomes,” Wynn says. “We know interprofessional education improves patient safety and the quality of care.”
Several studies from the Institute of Medicine, Institute for Healthcare Improvement and other health care agencies have shown that effective communication and teamwork help reduce preventable medical errors.
“Interdisciplinary means they (the patients) are receiving the benefit of each discipline and the special element that discipline brings,” said Wynn, an ECU alumna and adjunct faculty member in the ECU College of Nursing.
At Vidant, one example of this team-based approach occurs in “multidisciplinary rounding,” where patients are cared for by a multi-specialty team that includes a case manager, nutritionist, nurse, physician and physical therapist among others. Rehabilitation and physical medicine adopted a multidisciplinary care approach many years ago.
Teamwork also promotes a more rewarding work environment, Wynn says. “Each discipline sees they are making a difference, which is why most people go into health care,” she said.
‘A top goal of the division’
One place that students, residents, physician faculty and staff regularly practice team-based care is in the Brody School of Medicine’s Clinical Simulation Center, a safe zone where mannequin ‘patients’ are diagnosed and treated and clinical skills are sharpened.
“The idea is to pre-train people before they get to the bedside,” says Dr. Walter “Skip” Robey, director of the clinical simulation program and assistant dean for simulation and safety education. “It’s not fair to place them in an environment that’s high risk so we do it here and assess their performance before they move to the next step.”