Using teamwork to train better healthcare leaders


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By Jan Jarvis

Left to Right: Catherine Daniel, Russell Gordon, and Jonathan Pineda

Catherine Daniel, a first-year student in the Texas College of Osteopathic Medicine, clicked on the keys of her laptop, searching for data about a program to address infant mortality in Tarrant County.

“There needs to be a better way of identifying high risk people,” she concluded.

For about an hour, teams of UNTHSC explored ways to address the problem of the county’s high infant mortality rate. In the end the solutions discussed during this classroom exercise were less important than how the students reached them – through interprofessional teamwork.

The project, which involved students from TCOM and the School of Public Health, exemplifies UNTHSC’s commitment to developing collaborative practice-ready health professionals.

Team-based learning is aimed at building relationships and developing collaborative, interprofessional skills that students can use as health professionals, said David Farmer, PhD, Director Interprofessional Education and Practice and Assistant Professor of Medical Education.

“It recognizes the importance of being a functioning member of a team,” he said. “The medical students learn from the public health students and vice versa.”

This experiment in learning was modeled after the television show “Shark Tank” and required students to work in teams, come up with recommendations and pitch them to a panel of faculty members, who then selected the winners and awarded prizes.

The TCOM students quickly discovered that there are many social dilemmas affecting health, including stress, lack of transportation and unemployment. By working with public health students, they were able to see that their clinical experience alone would not solve the problem. They needed to be a part of a team.

Students walked away with a better understanding of the insight other professions have to offer when dealing with health issues.

Jonathan Peneda, a first-year TCOM student, said that he recognized that students in public health and other fields bring a lot to the table in terms of treating a health issue. Rather than focusing on the clinical aspect of a disease, as he would, they look at the whole picture and other factors affecting health.

“Working with a social worker or professional from a different arena gives us a more realistic experience of what happens in these situations,” he said. “Healthcare is a team effort and this is our introduction to it.”

Russell Gordon, who is working on a master’s in health administration, also found the program helped him see health issues differently.

“It’s a way of getting to know the ideas and perspective of clinical students,” he said.

Students learn that they can do more together than they can individually, said Morten Ostensen, Assistant Professor of Health Behavior and Health Systems and MHA Program Director.

Healthcare is changing and UNTHSC students want to help reshape the world, said Eric Beck, DO, MPH, Chief Medical Officer, UNT Health.

“To solve contemporary health issues, this type of team approach is required,” he said. “It’s not possible to solve these issues individually.”

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