March 9, 2015 | Erin Bluvas, firstname.lastname@example.org
Cheryl Addy, Senior Associate Dean for Academic Affairs for the Arnold School of Public Health, and colleagues from across the USC health sciences recently spearheaded a collaborative effort at USC to advance the interprofessional education movement, which has been gaining momentum over the past decade. As featured through a field action report in a special supplement of the American Journal of Public Health, the team redesigned and expanded an introductory interprofessional course for both undergraduate and graduate students from public health, social work, nursing, medicine and pharmacy.
The course, Transforming Healthcare for the Future, seeks to address interprofessional education core competencies by examining social determinants of health and health disparities, cultural competency, ethics, health system improvement and patient safety. Using experiential activities and systems-based problem solving, students work in interprofessional teams to develop foundational knowledge related to collaborative care, teamwork and effective communication within the context of complex health systems.
And the approach seems to be working. Student evaluations indicate that the course is meeting its objectives, and students enjoy the interactions. “It was really cool to be with all types of health care providers and work with them,” says one student. “It helped me understand them and be less intimidated to work with them.” They also realize the overarching benefits to interprofessional approaches. “A great idea to get students to work through patient cases together to see where each profession’s responsibilities lie and how to work together as a team to optimize patient care,” adds another student.
With collaborative practice considered a critical component to ensuring favorable health outcomes, interdisciplinary learning environments are now required by schools of public health. Addy, who is also a professor of biostatistics, became involved in this interdisciplinary foundational course by way of the USC Interprofessional Education for the Health Sciences Steering Committee. Established in 2011 with a representative from each of the five colleges/schools, the committee has since grown in membership and purpose.
Specifically, they have been tasked with facilitating interprofessional learning and service opportunities for students, including this introductory course. With the success of the course clearly demonstrated, the committee will continue to revise course content to improve the delivery of the curriculum. These modifications (e.g., simulation opportunities, internships) will result in an advanced interprofessional education experience and facilitate the achievement of the core competencies. And while current efforts tend to favor clinical practice, future initiatives will broaden the focus to include population health. In addition, the committee’s methods can serve as a model for universities interested in incorporating interprofessional education into their health science programming.
Co-authors on the field action report, entitled Enhancing Interprofessional Education: Integrating Public Health and Social Work Perspectives, include Teri Browne (College of Social Work), Elizabeth Blake (College of Pharmacy) and Jennifer Bailey (College of Education). The article is part of the Innovations in Public Health Education supplement. With contributions from more than 25 institutions across North America, the supplement offers an important window into the ongoing curricular changes that our schools are all experiencing to address the 21st Century’s public health challenges.