Students practise interdisciplinary teamwork in health care

Published 08 November 2011

medicineStudents at the University of New England gained valuable experience in health-care teamwork during a two-day program funded by the NSW Government’s Clinical Education & Training Institute (CETI).

The “Inter-professional Days” on Friday the 4th and Saturday the 5th of November involved students of medicine, nursing, social work and pharmacy. Working together in teams, they provided care for two “patients” in scenarios that required high levels of interdisciplinary cooperation.

“UNE’s School of Health, in partnership with the School of Rural Medicine and the School of Science and Technology, was funded by CETI to develop and deliver a program designed to promote inter-professional teamwork and effective communication, and focus on delivering safe, patient-centred care,” explained the leader of the program, Associate Professor Penny Paliadelis from the School of Health.

The interdisciplinary exercises were followed by panel discussions involving expert clinicians from across the region. “We used actors as ‘patients’, and we included a consumer representative in the panel discussions to provide the students with a patient’s perspective,” Dr Paliadelis said.

“It was excellent,” she continued. “The students found it really valuable – and a lot of fun. We’re keen to run it again, and will be applying for the funding to do so. We want to build on it, and embed such training into professional education in all the health disciplines.”

About 30 students volunteered to participate in the two-day program. “The students gained a greater understanding of the role of each discipline in the health team,” Dr Paliadelis said. “Their professional lives will involve working in such teams to provide the best possible care for their patients.”

In conducting the program, Dr Paliadelis led a team of staff members including Dr Maree Puxty from the School of Rural Medicine, Dr Anna-Marie Babey and Therese McGuren from the School of Science and Technology, and Jackie Lea, Anthea Fagan and Associate Professor Linda Turner from the School of Health. The local clinical experts who provided valuable input included Pam Black (social worker), Dr Allan McCaffery (emergency doctor), Catherine Death (renal clinical nurse consultant), Julie Really (community nurse), Joanne Davidson (pharmacist), and Mary Bennie (mental health / community nurse).

The program is supplemented by a Web site that provides interactive resources to support students’ learning and a space to reflect on the outcomes.