Tips for High-Impact Teamwork: Educating interprofessional student teams in a clinical setting

Photo of Associate Provost Tyler Reimschisel

In this edition of Tips for High-Impact Teamwork, I would like to focus on an educational and practice opportunity for interprofessional clinical teams. Just as individuals can learn by teaching others, one of the best ways to learn how to improve our own team’s performance is by teaching student teams how to work on interprofessional projects. 

Starting this fall, we will have small teams of advanced students from various professions work on a clinically based project as part of their clinical rotation, practicum experience or elective at a clinical site. If you are a member of an interprofessional clinical team in an inpatient and/or outpatient setting, we would love to talk with you about having a student team work with your team on a project developed by your team.

Let me provide a bit more information about the experience. We are calling it Collaborative Practice II (CPII) because it builds on Collaborative Practice I, the interprofessional service learning, community-based experience that our office coordinates for entry-level health professions and social work students. In CPII, advanced health professions students from multiple professions will work on interprofessional, clinically based projects and learn clinically based teamwork skills while completing the requirements of their concurrent elective, rotation, practicum or other clinical experiences.

Advanced students from at least two different professions can participate in CPII, including dental medicine, genetic counseling, medicine, nursing, nutrition, pharmacy, physician assistant, psychology, social work and speech-language pathology, among others. The specific professions of the students working with your clinical team will depend on the professions represented in your clinical team. You can have as few as two or three students working as a team in your clinical unit.

Students will be assigned to the clinical unit for at least one month, and the duration of the experience will vary based on the profession and program. For example, social work students are typically assigned to a site for multiple months, nursing students are assigned for approximately one semester, and medical and pharmacy students will likely be assigned for approximately one month.

All students will be assigned to an inpatient, outpatient or combined inpatient/outpatient clinical service. The majority of each student’s time will be dedicated to completing the requirements established by their primary program for the experience. Therefore, the students’ daily activities will closely resemble the current clinical experience at that site, including interviewing patients, completing histories and physicals, documenting clinical encounters, presenting patients to their supervisors, rounding, and attending clinical meetings like patient care meetings or case conferences. If the site desires, we can work to introduce new professions of students into the student team at the site, but that is not a requirement nor expectation.

The major new element in CPII is that students will devote approximately one-half day each week to a specific interprofessional team project. This will be added to their responsibilities on the clinical rotation, elective or practicum. Each clinical unit will develop the project in consultation with the Office of Interprofessional and Interdisciplinary Education and Research, and the projects may include care navigation, a quality improvement initiative, or patient education. In my experience, over time the impact of the team projects can significantly impact the quality and breadth of the service provided by the clinical unit.

Collaborative Practice II will also include classroom sessions on team skills and health systems science that build on the content within Collaborative Practice I. We anticipate that at least twice a week at noon for one hour, students from all clinical settings involved in CPII will attend the seminars in person or by Zoom. Members of the clinical team are welcome to attend the seminars. In these seminars, the team skills taught in Collaborative Practice I will be reinforced by contextualizing them within a clinical setting. Similarly, the students will receive instruction on how to apply pertinent health systems science principles to their projects, including the social influencers of health and health disparities related to the relevant patient population, the potential synergies between public health and individualized health care in an advanced medical system, structural competency in a clinical setting, and mitigating implicit bias in a health care team.

Each site will identify one to three faculty who can precept the student teamwork on the clinical project. These preceptors will work with the clinical unit to develop the project, they will be responsible for orienting new students to the project, and they will be available to the student teams to answer questions that the students may have about the projects.  

Perhaps you think that your team could use some professional development before you are ready to support and educate a whole team of advanced students. In my experience, this is one of the best aspects of this interprofessional experience because it provides learning opportunities at multiple levels. For example, this spring and summer before the student teams begin CPII, our office will provide faculty and staff development to the practicing clinical teams so they are prepared to teach the student teams. The professional development sessions will include an overview of interprofessional education, teamwork skills, and other topics related to collaborative practice, and we can tailor the sessions to the specific needs and interests of the clinical team. The educational sessions will be scheduled at a time that is amenable to the clinical unit, including in the evening or on a weekend.

CPII has the potential to enhance the clinical services provided by the practicing teams as the students complete an authentic and meaningful clinical project. In the process the practicing clinical unit can improve their own teamwork skills while providing an innovative teaching experience to an advanced team of students. If you are interested in learning more about Collaborative Practice II, please email me at