Symposium nurtures health care teamwork across disciplines

The symposium immersed faculty and aspiring health care providers and educators in the dynamics and mechanics of interprofessional teamwork.

A hypothetical 3-year-old child with special needs was the focus of nearly 200 students during the Waldron College of Health and Human Services' Fall Interdisciplinary Symposium in Heth Hall on Nov. 2.

The symposium immersed the aspiring health care providers and educators from the WCHHS and the School of Teacher Education and Leadership (STEL) in the dynamics and mechanics of interprofessional teamwork. They educated, consulted and, in some cases, negotiated with colleagues to prepare a care plan for the patient and her family who are dealing with a daunting set of physical, cognitive and medical conditions.

The symposium, the first of two such exercises in professional collaboration hosted by WCHHS' Center for Interprofessional Practice and Education, included graduate and undergraduate students from Radford’s nursing, speech pathology, occupational therapy, physical therapy, social work and early childhood education and development programs. In 25 groups, moderated by a faculty member, the students assessed and developed a care plan and individual education plans that would support Jessica and her family.

In the process, the future health care and education practitioners earned collaborative experience and an understanding of their colleagues’ disciplines.

“When learners get together and learn from and with each other, the outcomes of care improve,” said Patricia Clark, instructor of occupational therapy and a member of the symposium planning committee. “The safety of the patients and the quality of their care and its delivery is at its best.”

Essence Turner, a second-year Master of Social Work candidate from Virginia’s Southampton County, said, “There are things I do know, but there are others I didn’t know, this experience broadened my perspective.


The 25 groups assessed a patient's condition, developed a problem list and identified the components of a proposed care plan as well as barriers to success.

Turner and her group were tasked with assessing Jessica’s condition 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 on Jessica's situation. During their 90-minute conversations around the table, they shared specialized knowledge unique to their disciplines, protocols and terminology, while crafting an umbrella approach that would help, but not overwhelm, Jessica and her family.

"The big ah-ha moment, I think, came as they realized how much overlap between disciplines there is and the opportunity they have to collaborate and coordinate care for their patients,” said Nursing Instructor Meagan Arthur. “This is a critical insight for them as they begin their practices.”

A holistic approach was the exercise’s goal, according to Brendan McNulty, a second-year Doctor of Physical Therapy candidate from Waldorf, Maryland, who said, "Each profession sees things through their own lenses and the conversations about how to help healing and recovery were helpful.”

Occupational Therapy Instructor Laura Miear was impressed at the conversations that occurred in her group.

“There was a lot of gracious collaboration toward gaining and earning the respect of the practitioners from the other disciplines. It was exciting to see connections develop that helped them realize that they are not alone and could rely on one another.”

Nov 19, 2018
Don Bowman
(540) 831-5182