Secrets of Working Collaboratively in Interprofessional Teams: Insights from Healthcare Experts

On October 24, 2023, AAPA hosted a panel discussion on “The Secrets of Working Collaboratively in Interprofessional Teams” featuring seasoned PAs Danielle Horgen, Logan Driscoll, Makenzie Driscoll, and Laura Delaney, all of whom share a significant connection to Des Moines University as current faculty and former students. During the discussion, the panelists shared their experiences working with interprofessional teams and offered advice on building strong collaborative relationships within healthcare.

Education Provides More Interprofessional Experiences

Logan Driscoll shared his experience as a PA student at Des Moines University, where students have the opportunity to interact with various healthcare professionals during classes and labs and complete course work with medical students. He emphasized the value of understanding other clinicians’ educational journeys as a way to build trust among colleagues.

“While at Des Moines University, Makenzie and I sat in on classes with DO students, we did labs with physical therapy students…to me it feels so valuable to be in classes with medical students so that they know what we learn in school even before we are practicing clinicians,” Logan said. “They know that we’ve been through the rigors of the pathophysiology and the pharmacology coursework that they’ve been through.”

Danielle Horgen reflected on the evolving landscape of interprofessional education at Des Moines University, noting the university is increasingly emphasizing collaborative learning experiences. Speaking about her own educational journey, Danielle said, “While my program didn’t offer the interactive opportunities we promote now, such as working through cases with other groups, I recognize the value of such experiences. I truly believe they enhance our understanding and readiness for collaborative practice.”

Interprofessional Practice Enhances Patient Outcomes

The panelists underscored the significance of interprofessional education (IPE) in preparing healthcare providers for collaborative practice and spoke to the positive impact interprofessional collaboration has on patient outcomes.

Logan emphasized the crucial role interprofessional collaboration plays in ensuring efficient patient referrals, promoting confidence in decision-making, and ultimately improving patient outcomes. “If you’re working in primary care and someone has a condition that you need to refer for, it’s so, so helpful, especially when you’re a new PA, to be confident and know where you’re sending them,” he said.

Regular meetings between surgical teams and primary care practitioners where Mackenzie works at Broadlawns Medical Center helps different practitioners work together effectively. “At Broadlawns, we had meetings with the primary care team to discuss our practices, which has proved impactful,” she said. “It’s challenging to coordinate providers from various specialties, but when we manage to convene, it enhances our understanding of patient care possibilities.”

Danielle Horgen further emphasized the importance of early networking and collaboration among healthcare professionals, stressing the benefits of mutual support and shared goals in delivering high-quality patient care. “Knowing each other’s roles is really, really important… We are never going to know everything,” Danielle said.

Laura Delaney highlighted the tangible benefits of interprofessional practice, including decreased hospital stays, reduced costs, and fewer medical errors, ultimately emphasizing its integral role in healthcare education.

Building Strong Interprofessional Teams & Overcoming Challenges in Collaboration

In discussion on the challenges of collaboration, experts highlighted time constraints and coordination difficulties as significant obstacles. Makenzie acknowledged the difficulty of finding time for interprofessional interactions, while Danielle advocated for proactive coordination strategies, emphasizing the importance of aligning patient visits with other healthcare providers.

“In healthcare, coordination is crucial,” Danielle said. “Whether it’s aligning visits with other specialists or ensuring consistent messaging, teamwork and unity convey to the patient that their care is a shared priority. I advocate for in-person interactions whenever possible.” These insights reinforce the theme that effective communication and collaboration are essential for building robust interprofessional relationships within healthcare teams.

Logan identified collaborating outside of familiar practices as a key challenge, emphasizing the importance of trust when referring patients to other professionals. “I have full trust in physical therapists because I read physical therapy notes all day,” he said. “I send people to physical therapy all the time. So, it’s a matter of building trust and adapting to practices beyond my norm, which can be challenging.”

Overall, effective communication emerged as a remedy for these challenges, and Danielle emphasized the need to inquire about colleagues’ roles. “I think you have to ask individuals what their roles might be,” she said.

Makenzie stressed the significance of understanding colleagues’ backgrounds, drawing from her own experience. “Knowing how long someone’s been in the practice and what their past experiences are” enhances collaboration within the team, she said.

Final Thoughts and Advice

Experts emphasized the importance of effective communication and teamwork in interprofessional collaboration. Panelists offered advice to students, encouraging them to be proactive in seeking opportunities for learning and collaboration. Logan advised, “Be a sponge while you’re a student,” highlighting the value of gaining knowledge from diverse healthcare professionals. Danielle and Makenzie stressed the importance of asking questions, seeking assistance from other professionals, and coordinating care effectively to enhance patient outcomes.

Remember, by working together and valuing each other’s expertise, we can achieve better outcomes for our patients and create a more cohesive healthcare system.

Laura Delaney, MPAS, PA-C, began her medical career as an RN in the NICU for 18 years, later becoming a PA after graduating from Des Moines University PA program in June 1999. She has worked in emergency medicine, pediatrics, and academia. Laura is passionate about mentoring new PAs and enjoys spending time with her family and grandchildren.

Logan Driscoll, MSPAS, PA-C, graduated from DMU in May 2021. He practices general orthopedics at Capital Orthopedics, specializing in ankles, knees, hips, hand, wrist, elbow, and shoulder. He provides patient care in clinic, performs injections, manages post-op patients, and assists in various surgeries, including orthopedic spine surgery.

Makenzie Driscoll, MSPAS, PA-C, graduated from DMU in May 2021. She works in Plastic Surgery at Broadlawns Medical Center, focusing on cosmetic and reconstructive surgery, including hand surgery. In clinic, she addresses dermatology concerns, wound care, and postoperative follow-up. She performs in-office excisions and assists in various surgeries, such as breast reductions, skin cancer excisions, and hand procedures.

Danielle Horgen, MMS, PA-C, earned her Master of Medical Science in Physician Assistant Studies from Nova Southeastern University-Fort Lauderdale in 2012. She has extensive experience in orthopedic spine and neurosurgery, caring for patients with complex spinal deformities and neurological conditions. Danielle currently serves as a full-time assistant professor in the physician assistant program at Des Moines University.