UNTHSC removes barriers among health care professionals

August 29, 2013

Sue Sheridan’s son has brain damage because his health care team failed to communicate and left his neonatal jaundice untreated. Years later, her husband died after his spinal cancer diagnosis wasn’t communicated among specialists.

Sheridan now works for the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute in Washington, D.C. Her videotaped story introduced nearly 600 students to a unique learning experience on the UNT Health Science Center campus designed to help them work in teams to reduce medical errors.

“We have one purpose: to take care of the patient. We need you to help us change the culture of health care, from a hierarchy to a high-performing team.”

-UNTHSC President Michael Williams

“You have to do more than just read a patient’s medical records,” said student nurse Samantha Armstrong. She was among 100 student nurses from TCU’s Harris College of Nursing and Health Sciences who joined UNTHSC students for an afternoon of interprofessional education and collaborative discussions.

After the video and a welcome from UNTHSC President Michael Williams (TCOM ’81), DO, MD, MBA, students broke into small groups to discuss patient cases.

One group’s initial assessment of a middle-aged diabetic patient with disabling back pain was to declare his decision to stop going to physical therapy as being “noncompliant” with his health care provider’s instructions.

They changed their minds after considering his case from various perspectives, with a bit of guidance from John Bowling, DO, Assistant Dean of Rural Medical Education.

“He may need more medication to manage pain so he can take PT,” said the student physician assistant.

“He might be depressed,” said the student physical therapist.

“He may have financial issues,” said the student nurse.

They all agreed: “We need to know more about this man.”

Armstrong said the exercise made her more comfortable in relating to other health care providers. “It will make it easier to connect on a deeper level.”

Under the direction of David Farmer, PhD, the UNTHSC Office of Interprofessional Practice plans more collaborative learning events. The next, in October, will include students from the School of Public Health and Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences.

In addition, students will continue their collaborative discussions in a specially designed online platform.

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