A New IPE Perspective, Across 2 U-M Campuses

U-M nursing and respiratory therapy programs joined together across two campuses for a pilot teamwork simulation, while a staff member unexpectedly got to provide a patient-family view.

By Mary Beth Lewis; photos by Jessalyn Tamez and Taylor Shaffer

The email request came just days before the learning experience was scheduled to begin. 

Three U-M faculty members from two U-M health science schools located on separate campuses had been working on creating a novel educational session. The faculty members (U-M School of Nursing’s Linda DiClemente and Peggy Ursuy, and UM-Flint College of Health Sciences’ Respiratory Therapy Program Director Nicholas Prush, the latter two of whom were IPL Fellows) wanted their students to collaborate interprofessionally on an issue seen frequently at hospitals by both professions: respiratory distress evolving from flu, cystic fibrosis, or other possible scenarios. They had briefed their students on where to be and when. Yet the three faculty who had been planning the “Safety, Teamwork, and Escalation of Care” simulation wanted to raise the bar with a surprise element: they wanted someone to play the family member bringing the seriously ill 6-month-old baby in for emergency treatment.

In an email to the Michigan Center for Interprofessional Education with “Help Wanted” in the subject line, Nursing Clinical Assistant Professor Peggy Ursuy wrote: “To make this seem more real for the students, do you know of anyone willing to come and sim with us to play the role of a parent/grandparent? I’m looking for someone that the nursing students do not know or are familiar with in our regular simulations. The role is not complicated, just a concerned family member…”

I volunteered, because as the Michigan Center for IPE’s communications specialist I welcome any opportunity for a close look at interprofessional learning… to be in the room where it happens! I also thought I could bring valuable perspective, because both of my children experienced respiratory illness. One was actually hospitalized for it as an infant.

I arrived on the appointed late-winter morning at the U-M School of Nursing simulation center in Ann Arbor. I was given background materials, which I studied in an exam room so quiet that I could hear the simulated raspy breathing of my high-tech baby granddaughter “Sara.” Then the nurses (juniors on their pediatric clinical rotation) started arriving in the room. Several shift changes of them handed off care of Sara over the next 90 minutes. They came in, sanitized their hands, introduced themselves, and asked me questions about Sara’s illness and symptoms in recent days. Meanwhile, the baby’s respiratory condition kept worsening (exactly per the simulation plan). Respiratory therapists (actual students in the UM-Flint program) were soon called in, and they got going with a high-flow oxygen protocol. 

Then Sara’s condition suddenly deteriorated, and she required resuscitation. Clinical personnel called in the Code Blue and swarmed around the bed, administering CPR and communicating with urgency. As the grandmother, I felt mounting fear and wanted someone to explain what was going on… and to reassure me. 

Later, after Sara had been revived and the simulation ended, the students gathered for debrief (see photos below). I was impressed with how much the students voiced appreciation about working interprofessionally and the depth of feedback they gave each other: both the “sparkles” (praise) and the “sprinkles” (suggestions). And I saw the word “grandmother” frequently appearing amid the summary comments for the simulation. As UM-Flint Clinical Assistant Professor Nicholas Prush explained to the students, “The role we play as professionals in code situations is important, but in 2020 it’s also important to pay attention to family members in the room.” They might have important information to offer, or they may need to be comforted, he explained. 

Now that they have completed their first simulation for high-pressure collaboration, the faculty members’ next step will likely be to assess how this teamwork simulation meets targeted interprofessional education competencies and criteria for IPE courses and offerings. I, meanwhile, am back at my desk with a deeper understanding of how and why interprofessional education–and the hard work of the faculty who develop and provide it–can  improve outcomes and health care experiences for patients and their families.

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