The purpose of this study is to determine the impact of a novel educational offering on the interprofessional knowledge and attitudes related to health care of the rural veteran. With roots back in the 1960s, the interprofessional education (IPE) movement did not become energized in the United States until 2009 when six national education associations of schools of the health professions formed the Interprofessional Education Collaborative (IPEC) followed in 2010 when the World Health Organization’s (WHO) proposed a global framework for implementing IPE and collaborative practice. Yet, Bankston and Glazer (2013) and even the American Nurses Association (2013) ponder why despite concerted efforts by some institutions of higher learning and healthcare systems, many future health care providers are not educated to provide cost-effective, patient centered coordinated care as part of an integrated team. Challenged by resource shortages, many smaller colleges continue to funnel future health care students through fast-paced, highly technical, and specialty focused curricula or silos. However, as Hudson, Sanders and Pepper (2013) detailed, there is only a limited amount of evidence to help nursing educators break these silos and enrich the future practice of nursing students.
Spearheaded by the school of nursing, a modular program of study was developed based on the Interprofessional Education Collaborative (IPEC) core competencies and focused on the veteran population. In order to include different disciplines into this nursing-centric course, four free standing modules were developed that focused on ethics, roles, communication, and teamwork. This design enabled the various disciplines to schedule their students around their discipline-specific calendars, space, credit, and grading requirements. Students from The College’s Health Sciences (e.g., health informatics, physical therapy, occupational therapy, and social work) attended the course as their clinical rotations allowed. In each class there was a mixture of student health care professions. Nursing was the only constant group throughout the course. Using the veteran population as exemplars throughout each module helped to generate active interprofessional classroom experiences and bridge educational silos. Each module offered didactic, group activities focused on shared interprofessional values, collaboration and evidence-based practice, complex interprofessional simulation and case studies, and guest speakers from the veteran community. Course work was patient/client centric and did not emphasize any one particular profession. Measurements of interprofessional knowledge and attitudes were used to determine the impact of the education program. Attitudes were assessed before and following each 15 week course.
Ninety-eight students completed the first set of pre- and post-surveys. Preliminary findings suggest that education grounded in Benedictine values at a liberal arts college and tailored to the needs of a large rural population of veterans resulted in increased attitudes toward ethical components of teamwork and improved knowledge of and communication with various health professionals and veterans related to healthcare. The attitudes that significantly improved were related to collaboration. Attitudes related to professional ethics and values were unchanged. Course evaluations and student reflections exemplify the importance of respectful collaboration. As an unintended result, many of the health clinics where students worked added a question about uniformed service on their health history forms. Due to student feedback, enthusiasm and interest in continuing this course grew.
IPE and respectful collaboration is the future of healthcare. The state of the science is limited for educators interested in developing curricula to help future health care professionals collaborate with patients and their families to cut cost, improve their health experience as well as their overall health as outlined in the Triple Aim (2016). This unique educational experience will add to the literature and may inform future IPE curriculum development at smaller institutions challenged by costs, credit loads, and faculty availability.