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Working together to provide better patient care

Healthcare educators in Southern Alberta are working together to provide students with essential interdisciplinary teamwork skills before they enter a clinical environment.

Healthcare teams — particularly in emergency rooms — often consist of several different practitioners, but historically, students had little exposure to other disciplines until they entered a hospital or clinical setting. Last September, members of several Calgary post-secondaries — including SAIT and the University of Calgary — formed an Inter-professional Education (IPE) committee to begin looking at ways to change that.

Dr. Ian Wishart, committee lead and Faculty Director, Inter-professional Education at the University of Calgary's Cumming School of Medicine, says the basic premise of IPE is to learn from, with and about each other.

"We offer these programs at the individual institutions but the students are given little knowledge of what other practitioners are capable of doing. Ultimately, when we finally get into practice, we always work in teams whether that's a stroke team, aeromedical transport team or a palliative care team, etc."

Jennifer Stefura, Respiratory Therapy instructor with SAIT's School of Health and Public Safety and an IPE committee member, says when professionals work together, they need to be trained together.

"It generates more teamwork at the student level so by the time they reach clinical and they're establishing themselves in their profession, it breaks down those communication barriers. That leads to better overall patient care."

Medical, nursing and respiratory therapy students from SAIT and the University of Calgary participate in a minor trauma simulation.

Medical, nursing and respiratory therapy students take part in a minor trauma simulation

Learning to work in a team

The IPE committee has coordinated numerous collaborative events throughout the year — the largest of which took place June 26 at the University of Calgary's Foothills campus.

More than 350 students from the Faculty of Medicine, Faculty of Nursing, Faculty of Social Work and SAIT Respiratory Therapy and Paramedic programs participated in a series of minor trauma simulation exercises.

Simulation teams consisted of two medical students, one or two nursing students, a respiratory therapy student and social work student. Facilitated by instructors from the University and SAIT, students worked together to assess and treat a trauma patient — an actor with life-like make-up.

"When you work with simulation dolls, they can't be combative or cry or act upset. That's why we brought in the actors to make it more real," says Dr. Wishart.

The facilitator behaves as the victim's family or friend — adding another element of realism to the simulation as the team has to work with two people under duress.

Following the simulation, the teams debrief with their facilitator to review their strengths and where they could improve. Mohammad Rahman, who will be entering his second year of Respiratory Therapy this fall, says the exercise gave him a sense of what real-life scenarios will be like.

"We can see what our role will be when there are other professionals there. I was nervous about being with medical and nursing students, but the roles are very interdependent. Everybody needs everybody else — every role is important."

SAIT Paramedic students demonstrate an emergency room hand-over.

SAIT Paramedic students, including Marc Boutet (centre), demonstrate an emergency room hand-over.

From ambulance to trauma bay

The students also attended a demonstration involving patient hand-overs by emergency medical services. Marc Boutet, a second-year paramedic student, participated in the demonstration — as well as two pilot events earlier this year. He feels the demonstrations were not only good experience, but a great way to advocate for his profession.

"Anytime you practice scenarios you get better but it's also a chance to network," says Boutet.

"I hope more of these interprofessional activities take place and we can build on those relationships to have other medical professionals see the scope of practice that paramedics and EMTs can do in the field."

A culture of teamwork

The IPE committee continues to look for more opportunities for healthcare students from SAIT, the University of Calgary and Mount Royal University to work together, including incorporating more healthcare-related disciplines.

"Teamwork should be the culture of healthcare. It should and will become part of how we work and learn — that's the ultimate goal," says Dr. Wishart.

The committee hopes to coordinate another multi-disciplinary event for early next year.

June 30, 2015

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