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Every Wednesday this past winter, I had the chance to meet with my “dream team.” Nope, this was not an intramural sports league but an interprofessional class with students from dentistry, pharmacy, nursing and social work. As part of the “Team Based Clinical Decision Making” course, we learned about each discipline’s education and scope of practice before working through complex patient cases. Although we might not have professional licenses yet, it was a glimpse into the potential of high-functioning health care teams.

Health care is undeniably a team sport, but health care professional students traditionally learn in silos and often don’t work together until years into our education in the clinical setting. Each discipline has evolved largely independently, creating completely separate curricula, schedules and facilities. However, after every class we were left thinking about the value of learning together and from each other.

Michigan Medicine is working to create more interprofessional opportunities through a range of initiatives in education as well as clinical practice. This ranges from interprofessional (IPE) courses like this one, the Center for Interprofessional Education, team rounds, student groups spanning schools, and changes to the medical school curriculum. To allow for interprofessional collaboration, each school has designated Wednesday afternoons as protected time for required IPE courses, electives or other opportunities.

Although it was a huge class with 320+ students across five schools, the team structure made for a much more personal setting. We were divided into five groups and then further divided into individual teams that we worked with all semester. Each group rotated through modules led by faculty from two different disciplines, which created a unique teaching dynamic. The content included crucial topics that often are not allotted adequate time in medical education, including advance directives, the opoid epidemic, and transitions of care.

My team developed a much stronger understanding of the scope of practice of each discipline, and gained a lot of respect for each other and our respective professions. It was also a unique chance to practice my future role as a physician and better understand the skill set that I am expected to bring to the team. Since I was the only first-year student/med school rep on my team, it was also a valuable reminder to recruit help from my colleagues when needed and be honest about my own scope of knowledge.

There is a lot of discussion about the struggles of health care right now, especially fragmentation of care leading to poor outcomes. This is something I’ve been frustrated with in nearly all of my experiences in health care both before and during medical school. It was refreshing to be able to think critically about these problems through this class and be challenged to approach them with a proactive, team effort. As health care professionals of the future, we have some significant challenges to address. However, I think it is becoming clear that this will be best accomplished by thinking beyond the traditional paradigms of education, care models and hierarchy, and creating health care “dream teams.”

 

Kaitlyn is a first year medical student at the University of Michigan Medical School. She is interested in innovation in medical education and when not studying, chances are she is on her bike!