Student Reflections on U-M’s new foundational interprofessional patient experience

Winter 2021’s Longitudinal Interprofessional Family-based Experience (LIFE) gave teams of students unique access to volunteers patients and family members.

Even while they were busy finishing the semester and studying for finals amid the stresses of a pandemic year, a few students from this year’s inaugural LIFE IPE foundational course submitted thoughtful reflections about working with a patient or a family member volunteer (whose participation was facilitated by Michigan Medicine Office of Patient Experience). Excerpts below:

“As a student participant in the LIFE program, I learned more about working on an interprofessional health care team. This experience taught me the importance of balancing my area of expertise with that of the members on my team. Each of us had unique viewpoints relating to our concentrations, and we learned how to maximize our limited patient interaction time by carefully framing our interview questions to gather useful information for all of us. Communication with one another before and after the patient appointments was very important to our success, and it allowed the patient interactions to go more smoothly. 

“While her role was not to be a teacher in this program, our patient contact gave us a wonderful introduction to the world of interprofessional care, full of many lessons. As a caregiver for a family member with a rare lifelong illness, her inspiring story had us thoroughly invested from our first meeting. She shared stories about her time advocating for her loved one, handling complicated insurance issues, and experiences in health care that were both positive and negative. Her family has made so many sacrifices and faced scary challenges, but she has actively created blessings for her family despite the adversity they have faced. As a team, we spent our time with her laughing one second, and then noticing uniform watery eyes across the Zoom grid the next second. The patient meetings went by so quickly because we enjoyed our time with her so much. I’m really grateful to the introduction that she gave us to IPE, from the perspective of a patient. 

“I would highly recommend the LIFE program opportunity to other students that are interested in IPE. It was a highlight of my graduate program, and was a very valuable use of my time. “

Elizabeth Zaebst, Master of Public Health Candidate
University of Michigan School of Public Health Nutritional Sciences, Concentration in Dietetics

“Our patient has left a lasting impact on our future work as medical providers. She shared many positive memories of her medical care that we enjoyed hearing. She answered our many questions from how she learned about our diagnosis to what community supports were available. Throughout her experiences, one theme remained: How you treat the patient is always most important. Our assignment was to interview our patient, which meant when we met her, we had our own agenda, immediately failing at the first lesson she taught us. When working with patients, we are going to have our own plan, and this can lead us to overlook what our patients really want or need. They are an expert of their own body, their own feelings, and their own life. We will always need to complete our responsibilities, such as checking vitals, writing prescriptions, or completing assessments; however, as our patient taught us, we need to add learning and listening to our patients as the main priority.

“In addition, I think this experience has already impacted my professional work with interdisciplinary team members. The idea of working with medical professionals can be overwhelming but having conversations with other students makes me feel more confident with my role on the team. I think it helped show me I have something to offer to the team, not just to patient care. This experience gave me tangible experience in building rapport with disciplines that have different priorities and thought processes regarding patient care.”

Nicole Cornick, MSW Student / Integrated Health Scholar
University of Michigan School of Social Work

“I found the LIFE program to be very beneficial. I am an undergraduate student, and most of my group members were graduate students. It was very interesting to work with others who are in such different fields from me, and to understand just how overlapped they are for patients. 

“The patient that my group worked with was truly an inspiration. She helped me to understand how different the patient experience is from what a medical professional prescribes. It is easy for a medical professional to prescribe a medicine or treatment, but often the difficulty of these prescriptions and expectations is not accounted for. The patient showed us her daily schedule; she spends several hours per day doing prescribed treatments while working full time, and has taken over 300,000 pills in her lifetime. She said to us, ‘It is important to remember the patient burden in every plan of care, not that you would CHANGE it but just that you acknowledge their burden and how hard they are working to complete everything,’ which is not something that has been talked about before in my studies.

“I am really grateful for being able to participate in the LIFE program. It gave me insight into how interprofessional health care works for patients, and just how much integrating fields can help a patient dealing with chronic illnesses.”

Sophia McSpedon
University of Michigan School of Kinesiology Student