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Two Heads are Better Than One

Health Students Collaborate to Improve Care

Nursing and Physical Therapy Students

Community volunteer RaeAnn Dopson, center, explains her symptoms to nursing student Nicole Kebler and physical therapy students Amy Aiello and Matt Mailhot.

By Karen Angelo

Sophomore nursing student Brandon Moore listened carefully as a seven-month pregnant patient described numbness and pain in her arm. Working side-by-side with physical therapy students, Moore realized the power of collaboration in health care. 

“Two heads are better than one — that was demonstrated during this activity. I learned that if people from many health fields work together, we can come to a diagnosis faster, which is very helpful in patient care and recovery. I think the PT students held the missing puzzle pieces in my own diagnoses, and vice versa. It’s all a matter of perspective,” says Moore. 

The patients were actually community volunteers who simulated scenarios developed by faculty to train students on working together. 

This is one example of Interprofessional Education (IPE) in action in the College of Health Sciences. Recommended by the Institute of Medicine and the World Health Organization, IPE teaches students how to work effectively in teams so that patients are more likely to receive safe, quality care. Dean Shortie McKinney recently awarded five grants to faculty to develop IPE teaching ideas. 

“Our goal is to train students to work together with other health professionals so that when they enter the health care field, they hit the ground running for the benefit of their patients,” McKinney says. “We want our students to experience how taking multiple viewpoints into consideration helps them develop a more effective care plan.” 

Another team worked with a patient who had symptoms of osteoporosis. The physical therapy students worked with the patient to assess and prescribe response to weight- bearing exercises. The nursing students assessed functional status including the ability to participate in activities of daily living, and evaluated calcium and vitamin D intake. 

Together, the students practiced their critical thinking skills and used knowledge from their courses to formulate a prognosis and develop a plan of care. 

“I feel that team-based application is a great concept,” says physical therapy student Kyle Florence. “Together, we put our knowledge to the test to produce one final plan together.” 

The project was developed by nursing faculty Laurie Soroken, Margie Laccetti and Sandra Mote and physical therapy faculty Andrea Mendes and Keith Hallbourg.