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Leading the Way

May 11, 2020
5 min Read
Leading the Way

Creighton mentors other universities in establishing online interprofessional programs.

The coronavirus pandemic has impacted nearly every aspect of our lives. Just as many businesses have been forced to temporarily close their doors, so have our schools and universities, requiring many college and graduate students to transition to online learning to complete their degrees.

But for those in the health sciences and public health graduate programs, the pandemic has created additional challenges unique to their field. As part of their graduate requirements, these students are required to participate in Interprofessional Education (IPE). IPE helps prepare students in the healthcare field learn now to effectively collaborate and share knowledge with each other to deliver comprehensive, interprofessional patient care before they begin their healthcare careers.

Creighton University has been a leader in interprofessional education (IPE), creating The Center for Interprofessional Practice, Education and Research (CIPER) in 2015 – one of the first of its kind in the nation. The goal of the center was to develop a platform to incorporate IPE into campus and online degree programs, which is now a required part of the curriculum by accrediting bodies for many graduate school programs in the health sciences and healthcare related fields.

Creighton’s online IPE program is now being replicated by other universities across the country in an effort to help their students complete their graduation requirements as a result of the coronavirus. Capitalizing on Creighton’s knowledge and experience with IPE, the university was recently approached by the Nexus Innovations Network, which is supported by the National Center for Interprofessional Practice and Education, to offer a series of webinars to help other universities develop their own IPE programs.

“Learning how to effectively use interprofessional collaboration among healthcare providers is absolutely essential for our health science students,” says Cindy Costanzo, PhD, RN, CNL. “Without a doubt, there’s not one healthcare profession that doesn’t require working with a diverse team of professionals to achieve the best results. Because so many of our health sciences students learn online, we realized years ago that we were missing this important element and needed to create a platform to incorporate interdisciplinary education and collaborative practice into our curriculum.”

Shortly after the opening of CIPER, the first component of IPE was created, an online, self-paced introductory course that promotes important skills such as communication with diverse healthcare providers, conflict management and resolution, moral dissonance, an understanding about the responsibilities of other healthcare providers on the team and team development and dynamics.

This was followed by the creation of the second component of the IPE program called the IPE Passport. The IPE Passport is the application piece and involves a variety of synchronous and asynchronous activities that students can choose from and must complete three. These may include simulation, case studies, clinical activities, didactic panels or interviews, health humanity studies and community engagement that incorporate lectures, discussion boards and Zoom meetings with a faculty moderator. Examples of topics have included violence across the lifespan, human trafficking, child abuse and opioid use.  

The IPE program is now incorporated into the curriculum of many of our undergraduate, graduate and professional degree programs, like the Master of Public Health program at Creighton. These include medicine, nursing, physician assistant, dentistry, pharmacy, physical therapy, occupational therapy and emergency medical services.

While not part of the health sciences graduate program, the Master of Public Health arms professionals with the skills and strategies to develop health programs for at-risk populations and those who lack access to good healthcare. Because many public health professionals work very closely with a variety of healthcare professionals, IPE was deemed an essential part of the curriculum.

The application of interprofessional practice also has been integrated into graduate students’ practicum. “We observe their professional conduct and how they communicate and manage patients with other disciplines,” says Costanzo.

“The IPE activities have been well received by our students,” says Katie Packard, PharmD, MS, BCPS, AACC, FNAP, professor of Pharmacy Practice and Cardiology and co-director of the IPE Passport program with Kimberly Beran, PT, DPT, assistant professor and Academic Coordinator of Clinical Education. “In many cases, students are asking for more of these types of collaborative learning opportunities and to receive them earlier on in their education.”

Since the coronavirus outbreak, Packard says she is seeing the applicability of this type of collaboration in real time. “Since all healthcare providers don’t need to be on a COVID floor, some of us are rounding virtually with the primary provider to minimize the risk of exposure,” she says.

The application of interprofessional collaboration is an integral part of many professions and Packard expects it to expand to other degree programs in the future. It is already being used in the humanities department and she sees other schools such as law and social work following suit.  “We are always looking for new and innovative ways to educate and prepare our students for the real world,” says Packard.