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Health care collaborations key for students

October 18, 2016

Nursing students in the Student Outreach Clinic are part of a new approach in health care.

Nursing students in the Student Outreach Clinic are part of a new approach in health care, where students learn to work across disciplines to help improve patient care and community health. | LIZ KAYE / IU COMMUNICATIONS

Future health care professionals enrolled in health-related schools and programs at IUPUI and other statewide campuses are learning a lot about using teamwork to benefit patients.

When you consider that those students come from such diverse backgrounds as nursing, dentistry and medicine, among others, you realize teaching teamwork isn't a simple process, said Andrea Pfeifle, the director of the Indiana University Center for Interprofessional Practice and Education (website under construction).

Interprofessional Health Education and Practice

Students from the School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences' physical therapy program are just some of the IUPUI students who are learning a team approach to health care, collaborating with fellow future health practitioners to help patients overcome injuries, diseases and other conditions. | LIZ KAYE / IU COMMUNICATIONS

The center is handling the challenge of helping students from different disciplines collaborate despite differences in approaches, styles and even terminology.

"Rapid health system transformation is putting new demands on our graduates when they enter the workforce," Pfeifle said. "With these new demands comes the need for our students to learn different skill sets during their training, including how to work collaboratively across professions to address complex real-world challenges."

Students understand that development in the industry and are eager to learn how to work together more closely.

"They realize this is the direction that health care is taking, and what they learn today in terms of teamwork will make them more effective and more desirable to future employers," Pfeifle said.

The number of students who benefit from the center has grown steadily in recent years, and the future looks bright. Eight IUPUI-based schools participate in the Center:

  • School of Medicine
  • School of Nursing
  • School of Dentistry
  • School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences
  • School of Optometry
  • School of Social Work
  • Richard M. Fairbanks School of Public Health (IUPUI)
  • School of Public Health (Bloomington)

The center's collaborations "prepare students with the skills and knowledge to deliver high-quality, safe care and to meet the changing needs of clients, patients and communities," Pfeifle said. A growing emphasis on team approaches has made such collaborations part of health care's foundation.

PETM students help people tackle healthy habits like walking on a treadmill.

Kinesiology students from the School of Physical Education and Tourism Management help people gain from healthy habits like exercise, including walking on a treadmill. | LIZ KAYE / IU COMMUNICATIONS

"Teamwork is not always intuitive, and the health care system is generally not set up to optimize, or even support, collaboration," Pfeifle added. "We must intentionally teach -- and help students to practice -- skills that facilitate working across disciplines. Because Indiana University has more than 10,000 learners on nine campuses across the state who will graduate and work in a variety of settings affecting health and health care, we believe this will have a significant impact on the quality of life in Indiana."

The changes are being driven by recent health care reforms that add emphasis on efficient, effective and accessible care, with the ultimate goal of reducing medical errors. The center has been part of IU's initiative to position itself as a leader in training students to collaborate across disciplines.SaveSaveSaveSave

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