Interdisciplinary Symposium builds teamwork across disciplines for tomorrow's clinicians, teachers and nurses


Suellen Miller and other group members listen as group Q discusses treatment plan solutions and considerations during the Waldron Inter-Professional Workshop.

A three-year-old child with special needs was the focus of nearly 200 students and faculty during the Waldron College of Health and Human Services' Interprofessional Education and Practice Symposium held in Heth Hall on Nov. 7.

Designed to introduce students in the WCHHS and the School of Teacher Education and Leadership (STEL) to the dynamics of interprofessional teamwork, the event provided an opportunity to practice consulting and working with colleagues from six disciplines. Their goal was to prepare a comprehensive plan for helping the hypothetical Jessica and her family deal with a daunting set of physical, cognitive and medical conditions.

"The students were really invested in learning about collaborative practice,” said WCHHS Associate Dean Corey Cassidy. "The college has a longstanding commitment to interprofessional teamwork, the best practice today."

The symposium, now in its fourth year, included graduate and undergraduate students from the nursing, speech pathology, occupational therapy, physical therapy, social work and teacher education programs. In 18 groups, moderated by a faculty member, the students assessed and developed care plan and individual education plans for Jessica and her family.

"It was a great experience, very beneficial," said Gray Garner, a second-year student in the Master of Occupational Therapy program from Lawrenceville. "I got a good idea about how other disciplines fit in with my own."


Occupational Therapy student Katherine Perry brings up a point about the client to her group as they work through a treatment plan.

Garner and his group were tasked with assessing Jessica and her family, developing a problem list, identifying the components of a proposed care plan as well as barriers to success that would need to be overcome. In the process, they were enlightened by their fellow students' different assessments, methodologies and viewpoints. In the course of their 90-minute conversation around the table, they shared knowledge of their disciplines, protocols and terminology as they sought an umbrella approach that would help but not overwhelm Jessica and her family.

"I have seen students grow as professionals as they learned about others’ roles and clarified their own," said Kerry Vandergrift, assistant professor of social work, who moderated one of the groups and is a member of the six-person committee that organized the event. "The talk at the table was very intense as they worked to understand the conditions, the culture of the situation and their colleagues."

Hannah Hames, a second-year graduate student in occupational therapy, appreciated the chance to participate in an event that mirrors the way things are done on behalf of children with special needs.

"The main goal is a healthy client," said Hames of Virginia Beach. "We each have a special role and we support each other towards that goal."

The holistic approach in which the students were working was also of value to Andrew Atkins, a second-year student in the Doctor of Physical Therapy program from Norton, who said, "We needed a bigger table.  It was great to hear the different perspectives and overlaps from other health care professionals, an understanding that will really help me when I practice in my field."

To open the symposium, Kathryn Hoover, associate professor of teacher education and leadership, provided a keynote address during which she briefed the students about the current laws guiding the care and treatment of young children with disabilities.

Sheila Krajnik, instructor of occupational therapy and coordinator of the symposium, said, "The students got a lot out of the experience as did the instructors who got to step out of the teaching mode and watch students apply what they learned in a professional setting with their peers."

Nov 12, 2014