Building better teams

Interprofessional team training is a crucial part of UF Health’s health education program.

By: April Lacey

In a complicated patient case, the communication between nurses, doctors, pharmacists and other health care providers is crucial to ensuring patients receive the best care and safest outcomes possible.

But figuring out how to work together and communicate effectively isn’t always easy for health care providers. Training students to work together as part of interprofessional teams is a crucial part of UF Health’s health education programs.

Students from all six UF Health colleges take part in an interprofessional education course, called Putting Families First, where they work together in interprofessional teams. For students, this course is the first of several experiences they get during their education geared toward improving communication and interprofessional teamwork.

“Quality and patient safety are the most important driver for interprofessional education,” said Amy Blue, Ph.D., associate vice president for interprofessional education. “The more our students are prepared to go in complicated settings, and their employers don’t have to train them, the better it is for everybody.”

Program leaders also work closely with the College of Medicine Graduate Medical Education office to assess incoming interns, who participate in what is known as an objective structured clinical exam. This allows residency program leaders to see how well individual interns perform when working as part of an interprofessional group. The experience allows them to assess whether interns need additional training, Blue said.

In this experience, interns join with a “standardized” pharmacist and nurse, who are actors in the scenario, to work through a complex medication error issue. After the experience, interns get practice filling out their first patient safety report.

“In an ideal setting, the intern and nurse collaborate, then he or she collaborates with the pharmacist, and hopefully develops a new plan of care and communicates it back to the nurse,” said Erik Black, Ph.D., an assistant professor of pediatrics in the College of Medicine and of educational technology in the College of Education. “Many students are highly open to the input of other professions, but they may not understand the value of communicating back why an order was changed. They understand it is something they should be doing, but we have not been as deliberate in teaching them.”

Throughout their education, students are also getting more exposure to concepts and terms they will need to know to be part of successful interprofessional health care teams. Ensuring students and residents understand these skills and concepts helps improve care for patients now and in the future.

“It all comes back to communication,” Black said. “Communication is at the heart of quality. We are trying to train people to be able to better communicate with others and that has a direct impact on the quality of service we deliver.”