The table for the medication reviews by pharmacy students was situated right next to a similar table for the physical therapy students, who were there to do gait assessments of senior citizens and talk to them about preventing falls.

This recent free care clinic on campus for seniors was an ideal opportunity for some interprofessional learning, but the students started the day huddled in their separate groups.

“They need to be nudged,” said Barbara A. Richardson, director of interprofessional education and research at WSU Health Sciences Spokane. “The students are still learning their own disciplines and so it’s up to the faculty to help them see the positions that the other students fill on the health care team.”

Pharmacists are often the most accessible health care professionals for people. As front line providers, there are many things they can learn from the other disciplines that can help them in their practice as well as help the patients, Richardson said.

The speech and hearing students were conducting swallowing tests, dental hygiene students were conducting oral screenings for cancer, and occupational therapy students were doing sleep assessments and discussing how a patient could get better sleep. This is all helpful information to pharmacists who get asked about these things all the time, said Richardson.

A swallow test could help a pharmacist detect whether a patient would have difficulty taking a particular medicine and if so, search for an alternative drug delivery method, Richardson said.

“There are times when a customer at a pharmacy shows the pharmacist a sore in their mouth and asks about it,” Richardson said.

The care stations were situated closely together on the first floor of the Health Sciences Building for the convenience of the patients, who were greeted first by the dental hygiene students and then moved through the others. The stations also included flu shots by the nursing students, a diet discussion with nutrition and exercise physiology students and, if needed, information about diabetes and other chronic disease management from a group of student pharmacists who were separate from those doing the medication reviews.

That type of close proximity to the other disciplines is unique among the health care institutions and is what makes interprofessional education more achievable on this campus than at some of the larger institutions, Richardson said.

The recent event was not only multidisciplinary but multi-institutional and shared with Eastern Washington University’s health sciences disciplines also located on the campus, such as the dental hygiene students and their clinic.

Interprofessional education is now a national requirement for educational institutions involved in the health care fields, Richardson said.

“We are very fortunate on this campus to have many disciplines who are natural partners on health care teams,” Richardson said. “We are also fortunate that within each discipline are faculty very willing to embrace interprofessional education.”

By: Lorraine Nelson, WSU Health Sciences Spokane
[Nov. 12, 2014]