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One of the TeamSTEPPS working groups

Photo courtesy of: College of Health Sciences and Professions

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Collaborative programs bolster interprofessional healthcare education


What has become abundantly clear is that interprofessional healthcare education is on the move at Ohio University.

In February, 25 faculty leaders from the College of Health Sciences and Professions and the Heritage College of Medicine attended a two-day conference on TeamSTEPPS in order to investigate ways in which the two colleges could work together to foster the inter-professional education of their respective students.

The event was held in Grosvenor and was provided by Synensis, an educational group that trains clinicians around the country in the TeamSTEPPS methods. The Summa Health Foundation Cuyahoga Falls Osteopathic Medical Education Fund provided a $100,000 gift to support the project, as well as a series of collaborative Practice Education events, which are in development.

TeamSTEPPS (Team Strategies and Tools to Enhance Performance and Patient Safety) was developed by the Department of Defense and the Agency for Healthcare Quality and Research to decrease the number of preventable medical errors in the healthcare system. The Institute on Medicine has in the past estimated about 98,000 deaths a year are due to medical errors; recent authors state it may be as high as 200,000.

TeamSTEPPS is an evidence-based approach to improve team performance and emphasizes that a team is necessary for the optimal care of the patient. Recently, it has become apparent that if graduates of healthcare programs are to function as team members in the workplace, then learning to work in teams should be encouraged in all aspects of the students' education.  

"I believe true interprofessional collaboration is best achieved when we create opportunities for healthcare professionals to experience such collaboration while they are students," said Randy Leite, dean of the College of Health Sciences and Professions. "We do our best job of educating future healthcare professionals when we give them the opportunity to meaningfully interact with the other disciplines with which they will collaborate for the good of their patients."

Julie Gapstur, RN and Duane Cromwell emphasized four skills in the training as follows: Communication, Leadership, Situation Monitoring and Awareness, and Mutual Support. These four skills address the majority of patient errors in medical care. Various techniques were provided to enhance each one of these four key skills.

At the end of the first day of training, faculty were put into groups to participate in a simulated experience that demonstrated how each of these skills can be utilized to enhance team effectiveness. Although the strategies emphasize these skills for patient care, the group applied the same strategies in working together as teams for the educational benefit of our students.  

By the second day, three groups were able to articulate a plan to move interprofessional education forward between the two colleges.  

"Participating in TeamSTEPPS with colleagues from HSP and OUHCOM created the exact environment we want for our students to have in their careers. The team members were engaged, collaborative and interested in the best outcomes," said Dr. Nicole Wadsworth, associate dean for academic affairs, OU-HCOM.

A second workshop was held April 18 and 19 for faculty who are interested in incorporating the key skills into their courses and curriculum. In addition, a mentoring program for 20 faculty members will be provided to assist them in incorporating the concepts and all participants will have access to StoryCare, a series of vignettes designed to illustrate the various strategies in practice.

The TeamSTEPPS Workshop, along with two other inter-professional efforts, represents the development of an infrastructure that was designed to improve faculty skills to promote inter-professional education between the two colleges.

Tim Cain, Ph.D., OU-HCOM orchestrated the delivery of the Experiential Learning course that was conducted by Jason Zigmont, Ed.D. from OhioHealth in Summer 2013. Academic Technologies offered a "Flipped Classroom" course to 16 faculty members from both colleges in September 2013 to introduce faculty to this alternative method of teaching content.

"With the latest workshop, faculty members from both colleges have created a plan to incorporate inter-professional education into healthcare education," said Averell Overby, interim chair of the Department of Interdisciplinary Health Studies. "We will now form a core leadership team that will begin to weave these skills into the curricula with the help of the faculty."  

These new activities will complement an interprofessional course that has been offered by Wadsworth and Dr. Jeffrey DiGiovanni that enables students to function as a team in interviewing, assessing, and implementing a treatment with individuals with multiple co-morbidities. This course is supported by a Medicaid Technical Assistance and Policy Program (MEDTAPP) Healthcare Access (HCA) grant.  

"In our course, we endeavor to develop interprofessional competencies by providing authentic learning opportunities that use team-based care," said DiGiovanni. "Incorporating elements of TeamSTEPPS will facilitate the acquisition of interprofessional, communication competencies."

A half-day workshop highlighting interprofessional education in healthcare, which hopefully will be repeated annually, is planned for the fall semester as yet another step in the process.

Dr. Ken Johnson, executive dean of OU-HCOM, has noted that this initiative is part of the strategic plan for both colleges and that we have the opportunity to develop "innovation in education" for Ohio University healthcare students.