Helping health care professionals work smarter in teams

David Farmer and Diane Hawley
David Farmer and Diane Hawley

By Betsy Friauf

The international audience was so eager to learn about innovations at UNT Health Science Center, they raised their hands before the speakers clicked past their first slide.

The topic was teaching tomorrow’s health care providers to work in teams – interprofessional education, or IPE. David Farmer, PhD, Interprofessional Education Director at UNTHSC, was part of a team leading a workshop on creating support for programs like the one that’s thriving at the Health Science Center.

Teamwork among physicians, nurses, pharmacists, testing professionals, dietitians, social workers and many others creates healthier results for patients, can save lives and is part of a national initiative to make health care more affordable and effective. Because clinical knowledge doubles every 18 months, it takes a “village” of experts to keep people healthy.

At the recent international Collaborating Across Borders V conference in Roanoke, Va., Dr. Farmer and Dr. Diane Hawley of Texas Christian University’s Harris College of Nursing shared how TCU and UNTHSC created interprofessional activities so students in different fields learn to communicate and work toward common goals.

In less than three years, the program has grown to include not only medical and nursing students but also pharmacy, physical therapy, physician assistants and a half-dozen more disciplines.

Dr. Farmer and Dr. Hawley facilitated a 90-minute workshop for conference participants from across the U.S. plus three Canadian provinces. Participants were eager to learn how TCU and UNTHSC garnered leadership support and funding for the collaborations.

Those collaborations have grown to include several Texas universities and several disciplines including those named above plus kinesiology (athletic training), speech language pathology and more.

And TCU and UNTHSC are jointly creating a new MD school.

Dr. Farmer returned recently from the Interprofessional Education Collaborative Conference in Herndon, Va., where he shared UNTHSC’s successes in integrating IPE competencies, or the knowledge, skills, values and attitudes necessary for collaborative practice, into the training required of health care students. A crucial factor is how to meet IPE curriculum requirements that are now being introduced by most organizations that accredit universities and license health care providers to practice.

“Participants from both conferences are following up with me to learn more,” Dr. Farmer said. “They are especially interested in our TCU partnership and how to replicate that.

“Our IPE activities often involve 800 or more students, and IPE experts at other schools want to know how we handle that. They want to know, also, how we are introducing IPE into the curriculum.”

UNTHSC is well positioned as an institutional leader in IPE, he said.

Two additional fields of growing importance are the formalization of Interprofessional Education and Practice into graduate medical education or residency training and continuing education of physicians and other professionals in collaborative practice competency development.

Dr. Farmer is scheduled to present on IPE and residency training at a GME-MACY Foundation Summit on Feb. 7, 2016, at UT M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston.

Dr. Farmer and the UNTHSC Office of Professional and Continuing Education are working collaboratively to integrate Interprofessional Collaborative Practice training into the menu of continuing education course offerings for practicing health care professionals.

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