Waldron College Hosts Interprofessional Student Education and Practice Symposium
The Radford University Waldron College of Health and Human Services hosted the 11th Bi-Annual Interprofessional Student Education and Practice Symposium on February 21, 2020.
More than 150 students and 25 faculty members from all five of the health and human services disciplines in Waldron College took over the lower level of Heth Hall as they collaborated on a case study involving a young adult veteran with a traumatic brain injury. The symposium is held in the fall, focusing on a pediatric patient and in the spring with an adult patient.
Joining the students from Waldron College were students and faculty from the Athletic Training program in the College of Education and Human Development.
After a brief introductory session, the students transitioned into small groups with faculty moderators leading the discussions.
“The focus of the activity is for students to learn interprofessional teamwork and communication skills,” said Corey Cassidy, Ph.D., associate dean of Waldron College and professor of communication sciences and disorders, who was the driving force behind the event. “We want the students to share knowledge about their professions and responsibilities with each other. It is a good opportunity for them to practice talking about what their roles are and how they may overlap or are very different. Focusing on a case gives them the opportunity to figure out how to work as a team, while communicating effectively.”
According to the World Health Organization, “Interprofessional education occurs when students from two or more professions learn about, from, and with each other to enable effective collaboration and improve health outcomes. Once students understand how to work interprofessionally, they are ready to enter the workplace as a member of the collaborative practice team. This is a key step in moving health systems from fragmentation to a position of strength.”
Jessica Berry, a second-year graduate student in the speech-language pathology program, served as a moderator this year, after several years of participation. She affirmed the symposium is accomplishing the goal of facilitating effective collaboration in order to improve health outcomes.
“Wherever you may work when you graduate, you’ll interact with other professionals,” said Berry. “It’s important for all of us to know what the others do, how to communicate with each other and how we can get the client the most holistic care we can provide.”
The students received the case study a few days ahead of the event in order to become familiar with the details. Cassidy said that the purpose of this event was not to serve as a skills-based activity, but rather a communication-building exercise.
“There are intentional gaps in the case study,” Cassidy said, “which opens up the conversation about where and from whom they can find the information they need. It can be frustrating to some of the students when they realize they don’t have all of the details, but that is part of the learning process.”
Kerry Vandergrift, Ph.D., associate professor of social work, has been part of the interprofessional experience at Radford University for nearly a decade.
“Our dean at the time said we talk to each other once we get out of here, when we have to work together across disciplines,” said Vandergrift, “but we need to back that process up and teach students to communicate before they graduate. We need to allow them to talk to each other now at the same time they are building their clinical skills.”
Vandergrift said that some of the roadblocks they want the participants to overcome are stereotypes about other health and human services professions, jargon that can be alienating and preconceived notions about areas of responsibility within a patient’s care.
“All of those things can be detrimental to helping someone in need of care,” said Vandergrift. “We are giving these students the chance to overcome some of those challenges now, so they will be better in their careers after they graduate.”
Cassidy said she has heard from many graduates that the interprofessional symposiums are some of the most valuable experiences they have at Radford University. Cassidy and her planning team have conducted research into the effectiveness of the symposium and have found that students do experience a significant benefit from it. A post-event survey is conducted after every session with consistently positive feedback on the impact of this transformative educational experience.