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Faculty, staff train students at UW health schools as patient-care teams


The University of Washington’s Hogness Auditorium quickly filled to capacity for the All Health-Professions interdisciplinary training. In attendance were students and faculty from the schools of nursing, medicine, pharmacy and dentistry. Some instructors were staff from UW Medical Center and Harborview, where nurses, doctors, pharmacists, physician assistants and social workers work together every day with patients and their families.

Collaborative learning

When they enter their careers, the students will be part of similar teams. Traditionally, however, each health profession trains its students in separate classes, using separate simulations, and with little faculty overlap.

All-professions interdisciplinary training at the UW health schools is changing that. This event, and several other ongoing programs and voluntary student service organizations, provide students from different health professions the opportunity and skills to collaborate in patient care.

Tom Gallagher, MD, associate professor, opened the session.

“When I was a medical student, I received zero training in interprofessional collaboration,” Gallagher said. “The opportunity to learn and practice interactions with my colleagues in other professions would have been helpful to me.”

Breakout groups

The students broke into groups of about eight to 10 and walked to small classrooms. Each group was met by a UW health sciences faculty member and a person in the role of the adult son or daughter of a patient.

In a fictitious scenario, they were told the elderly father had arrived at a hospital from a nursing home for a routine procedure. In the records transfer, an alert on his allergies was missed. The patient was given a penicillin-type antibiotic. He had a serious reaction, and was moved to intensive care. He wasn’t yet alert but was beginning to recover.

The students discussed the case as a group and decided how and what to tell the family. They met with the elderly man’s family, not realizing that person was actually a faculty member or a UW Medical Center or Harborview health professional. In one of the sessions, the facilitator was faculty physician Peggy Schlesinger, MD, and the actor was UW School of Nursing professor, Carol Landis, RN, DNSc, FAAN. She expressed her fear at losing her only living relative, her mistrust of his future care and her upset that her father couldn’t remember her.

Her voice trembled. “How could something like this happen?”

The students explained the situation truthfully and told how sorry they were that the error had occurred. When the daughter said she wanted to be by her father’s side, the nursing students suggested arrangements for her stay at the hospital, with her comfort in mind.

“We hope that despite what has happened you might be willing to collaborate with us,” one of the medical students said. “We would like you to be near your father, both because it will help him, and for your own peace of mind.” A nursing student continued, “He doesn’t recognize you now, but he will soon, and it would be good for you to be there because it will help him become oriented.” The daughter became more accepting and calm.

Schlesinger ended the scenario by introducing Landis, as “a nursing school professor in real life.” The students, a bit taken aback, smiled, as the intensity was over.


About Author

Leila Gray is an editor for news & community relations at UW. Send comments to or post a comment below.

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