UC College of Medicine and Pharmacy Students Will Now Learn Together

For the first time in the history of the University of Cincinnati’s (UC) Academic Health Center, first-year students in UC’s colleges of medicine and pharmacy will take a required course—together.

The two-course series (Principles in Interprofessional Collaborative Practice and Applications in Interprofessional Collaborative Practice) will begin in spring 2019. The course is designed to acquaint students with aspects of each other’s professions early on in their education and provide students the skill set to engage effectively as interprofessional teams in the workplace.

"Health care has become so complex that educators and clinicians in the health care professions are recognizing we all have a role to play, and we have to do it in the most efficient manner possible,” says Jill Boone, PharmD, a professor and director of interprofessional education at UC’s James L. Winkle College of Pharmacy.

Boone co-led the curriculum change at both colleges along with Tiffiny Diers, MD, an associate professor in the Department of Internal Medicine at UC’s College of Medicine and the college's director of interprofessional education.

Historically, Diers says, health sciences learners have operated in silos, honing their focus on their specific field, with little exposure to roles and responsibilities of other health care professions until they enter the clinical environment. That model, she says, can lead to misconceptions about how different health professionals work together in practice and to a lack of orientation to a team approach.

However, five years ago, educators at the College of Medicine, identified the need for early interaction and required interprofessional coursework for medical students. Over two semesters, students could select among a variety of IP courses or learning experiences with students from the other Colleges to fulfill the requirement. While this model fostered the development of a variety of interprofessional curricula here, a standardized approach involving all learners was the logical next step.

With Winkle College undergoing a curriculum review in 2017, it made sense, Boone says, for the two colleges to coordinate interprofessional education as a jointly required course. Still not an easy task, given the intense schedules of both programs coupled with the number of learners, she says, considering the College of Medicine has 180 first-year students and the College of Pharmacy has 96 first-years.

The new model, she says, pairs two medical students with one pharmacy student throughout the year-long experience, switching classes in spring and fall. Coursework will include a variety of topics such as quality improvement, substance abuse, and resiliency, all taught in a manner to achieve the interprofessional education competencies of values/ethics, communications skills, roles and responsibilites and other competencies needed to work as a team.

In addition to students embracing the team approach, a critical factor of success with the remodeled curriculum, says Diers, lies in the partnerships with Greater Cincinnati’s health care systems, especially UC Health and Children’s Hospital Medical Center, where the majority of UC students rotate and graduates go on to practice professionally as residents and fellows.

"We want to be able to place students with highly functioning teams in the clinical environments where they themselves are going to be practicing,” she says.

It’s all about collaborative practice, adds Boone, noting that "every single health care profession, every single one, over the last several decades have increased their level of training, and when you think about the level of sophistication it makes sense that one person can’t be the expert for everything.”

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