Bulletin of Dental Education

IPE Initiative at UW Emphasizes Health Care Collaboration

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Early last month, nearly 600 students in the University of Washington (UW) health sciences schools—dentistry, medicine, nursing, pharmacy, public health and social work—formed teams and discussed the fictitious case of patient “Gregory,” a 31-year-old male seen in the UW Dental Urgent Care Clinic for tooth pain. Each team generated ideas for the best methods of treatment, as well as ways to increase patient compliance and address possible barriers to Gregory’s health care.

The activity, “Providing Care Across Settings,” is the second in the seven-session series of the new Foundations of Interprofessional Practice (FIP)—a year-long pilot curriculum emphasizing solving real health challenges in collaborative teams. FIP was established through the new Interprofessional Education (IPE) Initiative: Vision for a Collaborative Future, a team-based approach to teaching and delivering health care, which was launched last year.

While the IPE Initiative is new, interprofessional education has been a part of the UW for decades. Brenda Zierler, Ph.D., R.N., RVT, the Inaugural UW Health Sciences IPE Faculty Scholar and professor of biobehavioral nursing and health systems, says IPE in the health-related fields has been ongoing since 1997. It was formally funded in 2000 from a University Initiatives Fund grant from the provost, with the establishment of the Center for Health Science Interprofessional Education under founding director Pamela Mitchell, Ph.D., R.N., FAHA, FAAN.

“The new initiative is based on a vision of the current health science deans, new accreditation standards and health care reform,” says Dr. Zierler. She is the principal investigator on the grants from the Health Resources and Services Administration and Josiah Macy Jr. Foundation, which were instrumental in funding the early IPE activities and faculty development for IPE.

The deans of the pharmacy, public health and nursing schools are relatively new, and Joel H. Berg, D.D.S., M.S., was selected as the Dean of the School of Dentistry in 2012. Despite the turnover in positions, all six health sciences deans quickly united in throwing their support behind the initiative.

“The fact that we have six deans working together because they believe in this concept shows great leadership,” says Dr. Zierler. “We couldn’t do this without them. They’re modeling the behavior we’re trying to teach.”

The health sciences students will be obtaining part of their interprofessional training through the seven sessions of the FIP curriculum. An interdisciplinary team of health sciences faculty designed each session to focus on at least one of four core competencies: values and ethics for interprofessional practice, roles and responsibilities, interprofessional communication and teams and teamwork. The seven sessions are spread out over the course of the academic year.

The IPE Initiative will extend beyond the FIP curriculum. The bigger goal is to gradually introduce interprofessional courses to students in all six health sciences schools over a period of time.

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