Student doctors, nurses, social workers team up for critical care

Published 11 May 2011

careteamStudent doctors, nurses and social workers at the University of New England have come together for a day of interdisciplinary teamwork aimed at preparing them for the cooperative effort required in caring for critically ill patients.

More than 120 senior students from the three disciplines came together in UNE’s School of Health last month to spend a day simulating critical care situations and learning about the teamwork required of health-care professionals in such situations.

It was the inaugural event of its kind at UNE, and everyone involved agreed that it had been highly successful.

“Most doctors, nurses and social workers work as members of ‘health teams’ in the community or in the hospital setting,” said Dr Maree Puxty, Clinical Dean of the Tablelands Clinical School. “This is particularly the case in both hospital emergency departments and intensive care departments. Most undergraduate education, however, occurs in isolation of the other health professions. We want to change that situation, and to start educating our undergraduate students together as a team.

“The aim of the Critical Care Day was to introduce the students – in a practical way – to the importance of such interdisciplinary teamwork.”

The Critical Care Day involved half a day of simulations that followed a critically ill female patient from her arrival in an emergency department after a serious quad bike accident to her experience in the operating theatre and eventually the intensive care department. The students worked together in small teams to manage this patient’s severe injuries in a very realistic setting in the simulation suite in the School of Health.

The second half of the day involved three interactive panel discussions about three real critical-care cases involving a child, a pregnant woman and an adolescent. The panel consisted of a specialist doctor, a clinical nurse consultant and a specialist social worker. The student audience helped the panel problem-solve the case and come up with appropriate management plans.

“The UNE teaching staff, the students, and the panel members all had a rewarding day,” Dr Puxty said. “As a result, the students will be significantly more able to manage such situations in the future and to undertstand the reality of teamwork. Everyone involved from the School of Health and the School of Rural Medicine at UNE hopes that this type of educational forum will become a much more frequent event.”

THE PHOTOGRAPH displayed here shows first-year nursing student Gordon Grant acting as a patient under the care of a student team comprising a doctor, a social worker, and two nurses.