Creating a common understanding of teamwork in health care

By Alex Branch

UNT Health Science Center is taking a leading role in preparing future Texas medical professionals to practice teamwork for patients no matter what state academic medical institution they attend.

UNTHSC is one of four founding institutional members of the Texas Interprofessional Education Task Force created in 2015 at the encouragement of the Texas Legislature. The task force is developing strategies for institutions to share interprofessional practice and education (IPE) initiatives, experiences and lessons learned.

The task force has since grown to18 Texas academic medical institutions and one health care system, a unique collaboration with potential to shape uniform IPE core competencies that students studying health professions would learn at all state academic medical institutions, said David Farmer, PhD, UNTHSC Director of Interprofessional Education and Practice.

That means students studying at the Health Science Center will train to work in teams in the same manner as students at the University of Texas, Texas A&M University or Texas Tech University.

“That’s significant because after all these students graduate many of them will go get jobs in the same hospitals, clinics and other health care settings,” Dr. Farmer said. “It makes good sense for these students to have some common training – a common language and understanding of teamwork – to prepare them to function as members of high-performing health care teams.

“We know that high-performing teams can reduce preventable medical errors and ensure patients receive the highest quality of care.”

Task force members are not aware of any other state pursing a similar IPE strategy, so this network of Texas academic medical institutions potentially could become a model of innovative interprofessional education for other states to emulate, Dr. Farmer said.

“I could envision other states, particularly those in our region, coming to Texas to learn how to incorporate this model among their academic medical institutions,” Dr. Farmer said.

University President Michael R. Williams, DO, MD, has designated the establishment of UNT Health Science Center as a national leader in IPE by 2020 as one of the institution’s strategic goals.

Employers today desire health care professionals who can enter the workforce already equipped with the skills necessary to work collaboratively within interprofessional teams, Dr. Farmer said. The Health Science Center is preparing students to enter a changing health care system by creating opportunities to learn about, from and with each other in interprofessional teams.

Traditional silos of training are being replaced with an integration of collaborative practice competencies and teamwork experiences embedded into each health professions’ curriculum.

“The Health Science Center and the Texas IPE Task Force are working collaboratively to improve quality and safety in health care through effective teamwork training,” Dr. Farmer said.

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