HealthChats Recap: Working in a Health Care Team


How do pharmacists work with doctors and nurses to help their patients thrive?

In the latest HealthChats, representatives from across the Washington State University colleges of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, Medicine and Nursing came together to discuss the importance of working in a health care team and fostering an environment of peer-to-peer learning through a collaborative approach known as interprofessional education. From the first day in the Doctor of Pharmacy program, students are exposed to the value of interprofessional learning and working in a team with doctors and nurses.

Interprofessional education gives health care students in programs such as pharmacy, nursing and medicine the opportunity to learn and practice working alongside their future health care teammates. The team-based approach gives students the opportunity to learn more about the scopes of practice of other health care professions as well as what each discipline brings to the table. To help students in this endeavor, the curriculum begins with communication skills such as problem solving and conflict resolution.

“You want them to feel they have the confidence to speak up when they have something to contribute… we’re hoping it really encourages them to speak [up] because that’s part of your role as an advocate for patients and also just trying to provide the best possible care,” explained College of Nursing Associate Professor Marian Wilson.

By the end of the interprofessional curriculum students work together on complex patient-care simulations, problem solving in real time to create patient care plans. By working together in the classroom, the students become better prepared to work together in an interdisciplinary health care team in experiences outside of the classroom.

“If you have that situation awareness of how the different scopes of practice, how the team should function, really you have a good baseline for how to help the patient help themselves,” said Michaelle Guerrero, Practice Manager for Range Community Clinic.

WSU pharmacy and nursing students have been working side-by-side administering COVID-19 vaccines at clinics across the Spokane area.

As part of their education, health sciences students often take the opportunity to gain experience through volunteer and extracurricular activities, independently or through their student groups. While volunteering during events such as community health or vaccination clinics they often find themselves working alongside students from the other health programs. Previously these experiences required individual preceptors for each discipline, but thanks to a WSU student-led effort in 2019 Washington state now allows a single trained preceptor to oversee students from any discipline.

Now the University is taking their interdisciplinary education efforts a step farther with the Range Community Clinic, a non-profit academic health network affiliated with WSU. The Range Community Clinic William A. Crosetto Mobile Health Care Unit was unveiled in the fall of 2019 and has since hit the road, taking health care professionals and students to the communities that need them most.

Before the Labor Day weekend, the Mobile Unit also travelled to WSU Pullman where representatives from all three WSU Health Sciences colleges worked together to test almost 600 people for COVID-19.

“Range it’s purposely designed to get students from the different professions together on rotation and then have them be overseen by faculty from the different professions. I’m really excited to see how far this goes for our students,” said College of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences Associate Professor and Director of Health Outreach and External Residency Research Julie Akers.