Collaboration is key. 

And the first step to collaboration is awareness of who is available to connect with and how. This was the main message of the MU School of Health Professions’ first-ever Interprofessional Education Day, or IPE Day.

Earlier this week, first-year students from the departments of Speech, Language and Hearing Sciences, Physical Therapy, Occupational Therapy, Respiratory Therapy, Diagnostic Medical Ultrasound and Athletic Training met for a full morning of activities where they learned more about the other disciplines, how important it is to communicate with one another, and areas in which they could work together for the good of their patients.

Lea Ann Lowery, SHP’s faculty fellow for Interprofessional Education, spearheaded the event, with help from other faculty members in each of the programs.

One station included a Pictionary-type game, where the students had to draw different health professionals, and learned how important and sometimes challenging communicating effectively is.

Another station featured equipment from all sorts of disciplines, and students had to guess what the medical device was used for, and which discipline would use it. 

There were also case studies the students worked through with faculty members, and general presentations on all the disciplines. 

One student said, “I had no idea that Speech Pathologists could help treat patients who have swallowing difficulties. I didn’t realize that was in their wheelhouse at all.” 

The cohort then discussed how beneficial it is, for example, for OTs to understand that while they are trying to help their patient eat by increasing their motor skills to lift food from plate to mouth, all of that is for naught if the patient can’t swallow the food. So, if this is something the OT is noticing, they can collaborate with the speech therapist to meet all the patient’s needs.

“All of our programs do a fantastic job of educating future health care providers in their respective fields, but health care is a team sport, and in order for our students to be successful working as team members, they need to learn how,” Lowery said. 

While the first half of the day was more introductory in nature and geared toward first-year students, the second half of IPE day was for students in the second year of their program.  These sessions were designed much like professional development opportunities, and featured speakers on topics such as leadership in health care; grief, death and loss; and conflict resolution. 

Dr. Tashel Bordere, a faculty member in Human Development and Family Science speaks to SHP students about grief and loss.

The experts provided opportunities for students to learn more about their featured topics and shared perspectives with students from different clinical programs.

“I think the event went really well, thanks to lots of faculty, staff and students coming together to do the work – both behind the scenes and with directly supporting student learning.” Lowery said. 

This event was part of SHP’s larger Interprofessional Collaboration Initiative, which seeks to utilize creative educational approaches that embrace the ever-changing healthcare system and catalyze quality care for clients and communities.

“There will definitely be more events like these,” Lowery said, “I and others are working to create the infrastructure for sustainable and meaningful interprofessional experiences for all SHP students.”