Student Interprofessional Program Contributes to Healthcare Teamwork

Graduate Healthcare Students Gain Mutual Respect

April 18, 2019

By Brittany Palaski

Brittany Palaski
Brittany Palaski, Northeast Regional Representative, Student Academy Board of Directors

“We’re part of a healthcare team,” is the mantra that moves our profession. As the PA profession continues to grow, we’ve coined this phrase to accurately describe our scope of practice to our patients, our colleagues, and the public. The phrase raises the question, who is part of our team? To address this question, last summer the AAPA Assembly of Representatives passed a resolution that states:

The Student Academy resolves to seek opportunities to promote interprofessional collaboration with health profession student organizations to increase diversity in our respective organizations.

This resolution aims to raise awareness of the interprofessional nature of our profession and the team dynamic that comes into play every day. Throughout the country, PA programs are implementing interprofessional training into their curriculums to ensure their students graduate with an understanding of what different team players can contribute to patient care.

IMPACT required of all health professions’ graduate students
The MGH Institute of Health Professions implemented IMPACT for just this reason a few years ago. IMPACT is a school-wide program required of all graduate students during their time on campus. The program is comprised of three one-credit courses, simulation experiences, interprofessional infant development days, and a common reading curriculum. Throughout the two- to three-year long IMPACT experience, each student is placed on a team with students in the PA, nursing, speech and language pathology (SLP), physical therapy (PT), and occupational therapy (OT) programs. Members of these teams work together throughout the three semesters to face challenges both on paper and in simulations.

IMPACT at the MGH Institute differs from other schools in that the program spans the entire time on campus. The MGH Institute also has a dedicated IMPACT practice center on campus, which was just renovated last year, to connect us to one another, and connect students to patients and the community..

As a student, our first meeting with our new group consists of a volunteer event on campus with the entire school. Looking back, my first IMPACT event during the first few months of PA school was at a health clinic at a local group home. The health clinic offered free blood pressure checks. The PA and nursing students were able to teach the SLP, PT, and OT students how to take blood pressures. It was a way for us to connect with one another.

Students reflect on IMPACT
Students from the MGH Institute reflect on how IMPACT has helped them as they near graduation and finishing their respective programs:

“I entered the MGH Institute of Health Professions believing that I had a general understanding of other professions based on the experiences I had; however, I was presently surprised when I started working with my IMPACT group. I was able to not only talk with the other graduate students, but I had the incredible opportunity to volunteer, work, collaborate, advocate, and problem-solve with these amazing students. This initial experience with my IMPACT group provided me with an invaluable education about the roles of other health professions on the clinical care team. The experience assisted me in my speech language pathology clinical externship placement at Boston Children’s Hospital in the Alternative and Augmentative Communication program.

In this six-month placement, I was encouraged to reach out to the physicians, nurses, and other healthcare professionals to discuss the communication methods and further needs that a patient with severe disabilities could benefit from. I was able to apply the discipline-specific knowledge and interprofessional practice skills I had learned in IMPACT to these cases at the hospital. I was able to come into the conversation with prior knowledge and understanding of the specific disciplines. IMPACT has sincerely made a significant impact on my practice as a speech language pathology graduate student. It has given me an understanding of other healthcare positions and communication and collaboration strategies to implement when I am a part of a care team. IMPACT is the reason I would like to work with other disciplines in my future career as a speech-language pathologist.”

Catherine Serzan, MS Candidate, Speech-Language Pathology

“I recently left a meeting with medical students where we discussed how to delegate within healthcare. I felt confident talking about how different professions within healthcare can lead interprofessional groups because I knew each specialties’ strengths and when it would be appropriate for them to be in charge. I knew all of this because of IMPACT. IMPACT taught me the strengths and differences between each profession within healthcare. I now know when to consult an OT vs. PT and when a PA can lead.”

Kelly Parker, BSN, PNP Candidate

Throughout their two to three years on campus, students from the MGH Institute worked together on simulated standardized patient cases in the classroom. Individually, we shadowed different professions at Mass General Hospital for one day and were able to see what it was like to work in the other professionals’ shoes. We faced challenges as a team, completed presentations, and wrote essays like every other graduate student, but gained the invaluable perspective of our peers.

IMPACT classes were held late at night, and always felt like more work added on to the never ending piles of PA school studying. But, as I near graduation, I am thankful to have completed IMPACT, and to have met my IMPACT classmates. I am confident in calling consults and even more confident in describing my fellow colleagues’ scope of practice to my fellow PA community.

Read More:
UK Wildcat PA Students: All About the Team

Brittany Palaski is Northeast Regional Representative, Student Academy Board of Directors. Contact her at [email protected].