An Innovative Example of Incorporating IPE into Existing Courses

Dan Fischer, School of Social Work and Gundy Sweet, College of Pharmacy

When a pharmacy ethics class met up with social justice grand rounds, interprofessional education deepened the learning experience.

Social justice grand rounds (SJGR) at the University of Michigan happens every year, and the two-hour event was an interprofessional education (IPE) event for the first time in 2016. That means, in part, that it brought together students from at least two health science schools (social work and pharmacy), thereby deepening the potential for collaborative understanding and response.

It couldn’t have happened without a bit of luck (in that the ethics course for College of Pharmacy third-years happened to meet at the same time as the School of Social Work’s SJGR, for example), as well as a good bit of collaboration by the two main U-M faculty members.

“This IPE experience allowed the students from social work and pharmacy to learn together and reflect on an extremely important social justice issue across our systems of care,” said Daniel Fischer, LMSW, a U-M social work lecturer and Interprofessional Leadership Fellow. “The previously established social justice grand rounds, with a little tweaking and thoughtful collaboration, was a logical format to create an IPE experience related to values and ethics.”

“The post-class survey shows that both pharmacy and social work students saw great value in the program,” reported Gundy Sweet, PharmD, a U-M pharmacy professor. “Students in our pharmacy ethics course loved the opportunity to ‘see’ the world through the lens of a social worker. They particularly appreciated the discussion time when students could learn from each other. The buzz in the room during the 30 minutes of open discussion was inspiring for us as faculty.”

Providing background on how collaboration came to be, Professor Sweet explained: “We met periodically in the months preceding the event to plan what we wanted to do. Dan had the lead for the SJGR, and I had the lead for the didactic portion, as it was tied to assignments and a grade in my course.”

The topic for the interprofessional SJGR this year was transgender health. The presentations included reminders to caregivers to use preferred pronouns and names for patients and clients. A panel of health professionals discussed challenges to care and best practices to make healthcare friendlier to all patients. Next year the topic could be different, but the faculty members plan to continue this interprofessional collaboration moving forward.  They are also looking for ways to expand the opportunity to students from other professions and to develop the curriculum even further.

As Professor Sweet explained: “We piloted an approach that allowed us to tap into an existing program—social justice grand rounds—to provide a meaningful IPE experience to our students. While they learned about the topic of transgender care, I think pharmacy students learned even more about the importance of collaborating with social workers. One student told me after that she was fascinated to learn that ‘we’ call the people we serve patients, but social workers call them clients. This simple example illustrates the importance of having a common language in order to best work together and collaborate on a team.”

U-M faculty: Learn about proposing IPE designation for new or existing courses here.