Interprofessional Event Trains Students in Collaborative Care

At Touro's School of Health Sciences, Collaborating on a Healthcare Team Starts as a Student

March 27, 2024

People who have spent time in the hospital know that illness impacts them and their families on so many levels.  Medical symptoms must be diagnosed, and proper medication or treatment must be prescribed.  Quite often, rehabilitation with multiple types of therapy is needed and the toll that the trauma or disease takes on mental health cannot be overlooked.

To train budding healthcare professionals in every field on how to work together to deliver the highest level of patient care, Touro University convened its 11th annual Interprofessional Education Symposium last week at Congregation Sons of Israel in Woodmere, New York. More than 500 students and faculty members representing all members of the health care team gathered, including current and future professionals from Touro College of Pharmacy and Touro University School of Health Sciences (SHS) programs--nursing, occupational therapy, physician assistant, physical therapy, speech-language pathology, and clinical mental health counseling.

To help build communication and collaboration skills in a healthcare setting, students were given a real-world scenario to solve as part of a team. The day began with the presentation of the case of a stroke patient with a history of heart disease. The patient’s medical, surgical, social history and vital signs were shared, and the teams were charged with working together to develop a treatment and discharge plan.

"This symposium highlighted the importance of interprofessional collaboration to provide a high level of patient care and to improve communication so we can prepare these students for meaningful careers in the health sciences,” said Jill Horbacewicz, chair of the SHS Doctor of Physical Therapy program, co-chair of the SHS Interprofessional Education committee and coordinator of the event.

Students were grouped together in 35 care teams, made up of a faculty facilitator and 9 to 11 students, each representing a different profession.

“It was so interesting to hear from others in different fields. Personally, I look at issues from a medical standpoint, but to hear about the social and mental health aspects of patient care truly brings all these important professions together. None of us is the ‘top guy’, rather we’re all working together to improve the patient’s health overall. Learning to work seamlessly as a team with other professionals is so helpful for our future practice,” said Talia Marcus, an SHS physician assistant student.

The room was buzzing with lively discussion and members of each group shared information, insight, and analysis as they teamed up to plan a course of action for the patient.

“Having years of hospital experience, I found the Interprofessional Education Symposium to be an amazing opportunity for our students to experience the interdisciplinary rounds process. The hands-on exercise was an opportunity for each healthcare professional to have input, which is an invaluable part of their education,” said Dr. Sharon Blum, chair and professor of the Department of Pharmacy Practice at Touro College of Pharmacy, who participated in the event.

Proven Results

A recent study published by Horbacewicz and Rivka Molinsky, Associate Dean of Students and Innovation at SHS, showed that the yearly symposium enabled students to learn with, from, and about many professions in one experience, and helped them gain on-the-ground experience needed to successfully function in an interprofessional team.

Following last year’s symposium, students completed a survey that assesses competency in collaborative practice. Results demonstrated a significant increase in every collaboration-related competency for all participants as a group, as well as major differences between professions. For example, students from the occupational therapy program rated themselves lowest at the start of the symposium but showed the greatest gains.

“This evidence-based educational experience has a real impact on client care as our graduating students are now well prepared to be active and effective contributing members of a healthcare team,” said Molinksy.