Josiah Jr. Foundation Grant supports interprofessional curriculum

Josiah Jr. Foundation Grant supports interprofessional curriculum

The Interprofessional Learning Exchange and Development (I-LEAD) Program is a four-year project made possible by a $640,000 grant from the Josiah Macy Jr. Foundation—a New York City-based privately endowed philanthropy that supports programs designed to improve the education of health professionals in the interest of public health delivery. This grant builds on funding the university received in 2009 from the Institute for Healthcare Improvement/Macy Foundation initiative to strengthen medical and nursing collaborative education.

"We must ensure a patient is cared for in a safe environment, regardless of the health care system," says Daniel B. Ornt, MD, vice dean for education and academic affairs at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine. "To do that, ultimately the communication among health care providers is critical."

"If universities across the country don't start educating in a way where nursing and medical students are actually working together, it's unrealistic to expect them to communicate or practice interprofessionally after they graduate," says Patricia Underwood, PhD, RN, executive associate dean for academic affairs at Case Western Reserve University Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing.

Co-directors Underwood and Ornt will lead the charge over the next four years by developing and implementing experienced-based curricula across both schools to improve communication and collaboration among a pilot study of nursing and medical students. Collaborative learning experiences will occur in acute care and community settings and culminate in a Saturday, student-run free clinic, one of only a few across the country run by students associated with a medical school.

In partnership with The Free Medical Clinic of Greater Cleveland, the student-run clinic will serve as a capstone project, teaching select nursing and medical students to better work together in the diagnosis and management of patients typically seen at the city's free clinic. These patients are often uninsured and seek care for myriad medical problems, from acute illnesses such as upper-respiratory infections to chronic diseases like diabetes. The student-run free clinic is slated to open by mid-2011.

"Our goal for the clinic is to provide continuity for these patients," says Ornt. "A great secondary outcome is that this will offer students additional experience. They'll learn more about disease diagnosis and management. It will be a part of clinical education." What's more, students will be exposed to the business of health care, learning strategic organizational structures to improve efficiency and understanding the costs of providing health care services. Other components of the program include small-group experiences, simulated patient situations, a community laboratory and an in-patient laboratory.

At the end of the four years, Underwood and Ornt will measure the effectiveness of each experience-based component. They are working closely with organizational behavior expert Tony Lingham, PhD, of Case Western Reserve's Weatherhead School of Management to analyze team and organization dynamics, exploring what impact a positive collaborative experience in a controlled environment could have on a student's ability to participate in teams in his or her professional career. Once results are achieved, the hope is that the curricula with positive outcomes will be expanded to include all students across the nursing and medical schools.

And the ultimate goal is to develop interprofessional curriculum models that can be shared with schools across the nation.

"I think this will really serve as a model for the rest of the country," says Underwood. "I think we have a real opportunity here just because of the way it's been designed. These learning experiences will involve not only students, but they also will encourage faculty to collaborate throughout the curriculum."