Symposium Unites Waldron Faculty, Students in a Common Cause

The patient is a 78-year-old widow who lives with her son. After a fall in the kitchen, she is hospitalized and diagnosed with a left middle-cerebral artery CVA: a stroke. A week later she is transferred to a skilled nursing facility for rehabilitation. What happens next?

That question was the topic for a symposium Friday, March 30, for Radford University's Waldron College of Health and Human Services. Working from a detailed case study of the hypothetic patient, Waldron students and faculty spent the morning designing a program of treatment for her.

In the college's first interdisciplinary symposium, more than 100 representatives from nursing, social work, physical therapy, occupational therapy and communication sciences and disorders heard an overview of the case from the perspective of each discipline, then gathered in small groups to talk about treatment options.

"We know what we do and what we are taught in the classroom," said Brittany Bartley, a graduate student in the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders. "Today we are learning what everybody else does."

After an introduction by Waldron Dean Raymond Linville, a speaker from each department explained its work in the context of the day's case study. The break-out groups followed, with a faculty moderator guiding each discussion. Participants had reviewed the patient's 20-page background and medical history ahead of time.

"This is where we actually dive into the case," said Rebecca Epperly, an instructor and clinical director in communication sciences and disorders. She worked with instructors Kate Brennan and Sarah Gilbert from nursing, Kerry Vandergrift from social work, Sheila Krajnik from occupational therapy, Field Coordinator Deneen Evans from social work and Renee Huth, director of clinical education in the Department of Physical Therapy, to organize the symposium.

Group discussions were lively as participants listed what the patient would need to return home: grab bars in the bathroom, a chair in the shower, space to maneuver a wheelchair and instruction on how to use it, a device to call for help, and a special diet because the stroke has changed her ability to swallow. Depression is possible after a stroke—the patient and her family might need counseling.

"This is a good beginning," said Virginia Burggraf, Marcella Griggs Endowed Professor of Gerontological Nursing and longtime Waldron faculty member. Future interdisciplinary symposiums can cast an even wider net, she said, by including participants from disciplines such as psychology and nutrition. "It is a mechanism to learn from one another."

Apr 2, 2012
Deanne Estrada
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