September 26, 2018
One of the strengths of UNE is training students in the health and social work fields to work collaboratively for better outcomes for the patients they serve.
“We feel that it's especially important for students to learn about other professions,” said Shelley Cohen Konrad, Ph.D., LCSW, FNAP, director of the School of Social Work and the Interprofessional Education Collaborative. “In most clinical settings they're going to be working with people in professions across the board. Our philosophy is to get students prepared to do that.”
The successes of inter-professional education (IPE) at UNE were shared during the Inaugural Interprofessional Showcase recently held on the Portland Campus.
“We feel like we're doing a good job getting students ready for health care in the real world and also getting them ready to be advocates for change,” commented Cohen Konrad.
UNE’s programs provide great opportunities for students to work collaboratively across different professions.
“We have the luxury of having 15 different health professions here on relatively small campuses,” Cohen Konrad explained. “We've really thought about the best ways students can take advantage of the environment that we have.”
Negeri Clarke (Pharmacy, ’20) says it is important to have confidence in your abilities within your own field but also to acknowledge that you do not have the same experience as others with whom you are working.
“You have to come to the table with your own ignorance, if you will,” said Clarke. “You know a lot about what you know, but there's a lot that you know nothing about.”
Lila Maycock (Social Work, ’19) strongly agrees.
“You do need to be competent in your profession, but it can be easy to forget that there are many other aspects of patient care that you're not capable of doing,” she commented.
During the showcase faculty, students and members of UNE’s community partners spoke about how IPE makes students better prepared. They shared examples of how the team approach helps them understand the work of other health professionals, make better decisions, avoid errors in delivering care and improves the quality of care to patients.
“You have to be willing to do what it takes to help the patient. That means knowing that you don't have all the answers. So, you need to collaborate with other people to make that happen,” remarked Clarke.
Attendees also heard examples of what can happen when health professionals don’t work together.
Susan Gold has rheumatoid arthritis, an inflammatory disease that causes painful swelling of the linings of the joints.
“I had undiagnosed pain for a year and a half,” Gold explained. “I had five or six different specialists seeing me. Every time I went to see them, I'd tell I'm in terrible pain. They only dealt with their own area. If they had been communicating with each other, they might have recognized that pain was overwhelming me.”
Gold has become a self-advocate and educator, who helps other chronic pain sufferers.
An important aspect of IPE is getting students out of the classroom to experience the collaboration first-hand.
“Both of my internships had great clinical experience doing some of the interprofessional work,” said Maycock. “UNE does a great job of that.”
That experience can really pay off when a student graduates.
“What we're hearing from employers is that our students are really primed for collaboration,” Cohen Konrad commented.
Cohen Konrad notes IPE also includes interdisciplinary models that prepare students for collaborative work in settings outside of health and social care, including education and corrections.