Interprofessional Student Town Hall

This third annual University of Michigan event was notable for its “firsts.”

Dozens of U-M events vied for student attention on October 26, 2017, but the turnout for the third annual Interprofessional Student Town Hall was robust and so animated that conversations went on well after the program concluded–even after the food was gone.

Nearly one hundred health science students and faculty leaders gathered at the Munger Graduate Residences lounges to discuss the value of interprofessional education (IPE) and collaborative care for improved patient outcomes and population health. As with the two previous town halls, schools represented from U-M’s Ann Arbor campus included Dentistry, Kinesiology, Medicine, Nursing, Pharmacy, Public Health, and Social Work.

Notable this year was unprecedented participation from UM-Dearborn and UM-Flint. Also on hand were U-M students from programs like business, law, and health informatics, as well as professionals from respiratory care, speech language pathology and clinical psychology. U-M student reporter Shannon Ors was in attendance and wrote about the event for the Michigan Daily.

Movers and Shakers

The town hall was organized by the Michigan Center for Interprofessional Education, in collaboration with student leaders from across the health science schools and the three main interprofessional student organizations at U-M: the Interprofessional Health Student Organization (IHSO), the Institute for Healthcare Improvement-Open School (IHI-OS), and the Student-Run Free Clinic (SRFC). At the start of the town hall program, two facilitators from Trotter Multicultural Center led a “speed meeting” warm-up and introduced faculty representatives (Frank Ascione from the Center for IPE and Joe Kolars from Michigan Medicine) for welcoming remarks.

Students from the three interprofessional groups then took the floor to talk about ways for students to become part of the momentum for IPE and team-based health care. For example, Lia Delaney from the Student-Run Free Clinic explained that students don’t have to be from medicine, nursing, dentistry or the other programs that already have infrastructure to work in patient care at the clinic.

“Every semester, new counselors are trained to help in enrolling as many eligible patients as possible for health insurance and other benefits,” she said. She encouraged interested volunteers from all fields to find out about this training opportunity via the SRFC website.

The Main Event

In another first for 2017, a key activity at the town hall was the first-ever presentation of a clinical case for discussion. In planning meetings, students suggested showcasing an interprofessional clinical team to learn how and why they work collaboratively. Additionally, students wanted to use the time at the town hall to “actually do IPE.”

The new Michigan Center for IPE Assistant Director Vani Patterson worked to make it happen. She recruited College of Pharmacy Associate Professor Amy Pai to collaborate with interprofessional colleagues on adapting and introducing a case about a 64-year-old patient referred to a multidisciplinary kidney disease clinic. Students broke into groups and discussed how each of their professions would potentially address the many health and personal difficulties of the patient.

Points made by students in the ensuing discussions included:

  • Working on balance and resistance training for strength could help prevent more falls (kinesiology and physical therapy).
  • She needs regular logs of blood pressure and sugar checks (nursing).
  • Addressing effects of prescriptions on salivary flow would be important, as well as overall oral health (dentistry).
  • Addressing her support system and screening her for depression are needed, to help put a smile on her face (social work).
  • “I could fix some of her medical problems and prolong her life, but the things you all are suggesting are what would actually improve her life” (medicine).

Wrapping up the evening were quick comments from faculty members from varied health professions on how they would address the case–going beyond, but also reiterating, many of the points made by the students. Associate Professor of Nephrology and Internal Medicine Jonathan Segal, who has worked at U-M multidisciplinary chronic kidney disease clinics for four years, said the town hall exercise gave students useful experience along the lines of what he does regularly: “I love our clinic and our huddles. I work with great people who have great input.”

More Voices from the Crowd

Pharmacy student and IHI-OS communications chair Andrea Duong, attending her second town hall, said there were several things she enjoyed this year–particularly the chance to talk about the clinical case in small groups: “We had just four at my table, all from different professions, and it gave us all time to offer our perspectives and reflect on each other’s points–and even to ask each other things we always wondered about in each other’s professions.”

In post-evaluation surveys, students gave valuable feedback, including:

  • “It’s a very educating experience to learn how much you don’t know. It’s humbling and a constant reminder that asking for help is not weakness.”
  • “The ability to interact with a good number of students from other grad schools helped to make the event experiential, realistic, and relatable to future collaboration.”

“IPE is a national and international movement, and universities are scrambling to figure out how to meet new IPE accreditation requirements,” said Center for IPE Assistant Director Vani Patterson. “One thing that will make us shine and be successful at U-M is that we are actively engaging students in helping us to determine how to best meet their needs when it comes to IPE.”

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