Future educators, health care providers and human service providers sharpen teamwork and cultural competence
A family raising a 3-year-old child with special needs was the focus of almost 200 students and faculty during the Waldron College of Health and Human Services' (WCHHS) Interprofessional Education and Practice Symposium (IEPS) held in Heth Hall on Nov. 3.
Designed to introduce students in the WCHHS and the School of Teacher Education and Leadership (STEL) to the dynamics of interprofessional teamwork, the IEPS challenged the future health care providers, social workers and teachers to consult and work with multi-disciplinary colleagues. The 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 as she transitioned to a public school environment.
“The future of health care is based on an integrated care model, so learning from and with each other in the interprofessional group setting is vital to professional success,” said WCHHS Dean Ken Cox.
The students explored one another’s disciplines while considering the context of the case family’s cultural environment. The fifth annual symposium featured Appalachian Studies Chair Theresa Burriss, who framed the exercise as a way to understand the ambient culture in which the future health care providers and educators will practice.
“A patient’s history has a cultural element that, when you consider it along with the medical history, can make the difference between compliance and non- compliance,” said Burriss.
The case involved Jessica, a 3-year-old with intensive needs, her father and grandmother, who all self-identified as Appalachian. Burriss highlighted some of the general values and characteristics of the Appalachian culture, such as individual self-reliance, a social structure based on family and kinship, love of place and a religious background based primarily on a sectarian Protestant heritage.
“Understand that your patients are making sense of the world in a particular way,” Burriss said. “Be genuine and be respectful.”
She encouraged the students to regard the elements of culture as a helpful paradigm toward understanding the different cultural settings in which they might practice. Burriss also cautioned the students to avoid the “Missionary Mentality,” in which they come across as saying “I am the expert. I know what is best for you.”
Burriss urged the graduate and undergraduate participants to look past the perceptions commonly held of Appalachia and its residents, saying, “You need to appreciate the media’s power to reduce peoples to one stereotype.”
The Appalachian region, said Burriss, encompasses 13 states – from lower New York State into northeastern Mississippi – and includes such diverse and distinctive ethnic groups as Cherokee, Melungeon, Affrilachian and Latino.
“Cultural competence is an integral part of the journey toward becoming a competent heath care and human service professional,” said WCHHS Associate Dean Corey Cassidy. "Today we challenged the students to be open to and consider the diversity of their colleagues’ disciplines in addition to the culture and identity of their patients.”
The symposium included students from the nursing, communication science and disorders, occupational therapy, physical therapy, social work and early childhood education programs. Twenty-one groups, each moderated by a faculty member, assessed and developed care and education plans for Jessica and her family.
"Once we got to know one another and their professional points of view, it was like a chain reaction or domino effect as we worked as a team for our client " said Amanda Andrews, a senior social work student.
“We found common ground in wanting to help Jessica,” said Jordan Lee, a second-year physical therapy graduate student. “I thought we were able to learn about the different scopes of health care and build on that.”
After the symposium, the WCHHS Equity Committee hosted the IEPS faculty and student participants at an Appalachian-themed luncheon with a performance of Appalachian music by Ricky Cox, instructor of Appalachian Studies and English.