Bringing an Interprofessional Dimension to Pharmacy Education

Pharmacy Careers, Pharmacy Careers Winter 2017, Volume 11, Issue 1

Pharmacy is part of an ever-changing set of health care professions to which we must learn to adapt quickly, both now and over the course of our careers.

Pharmacy is part of an ever-changing set of health care professions to which we must learn to adapt quickly, both now and over the course of our careers. Currently, the pharmacy profession is in the process of shifting its focus to even more patient-centered care. In order to prepare us to provide optimal patient-centered care, interprofessional education has become an integral part of our curriculum, preparing us to better serve our patients by building communication skills, cultivating teamwork, and fostering respect for and understanding of other health care professionals’ roles.

To promote interprofessional understanding and respect, the Center for Interprofessional Health Education at the University of Kentucky has established the Interprofessional Collaboration and Team Skills Program, better known as “iCATS.” The program includes first-year students from professional degree programs in communication disorders, dentistry, medicine, nursing, pharmacy, physical therapy, and physician assistant studies. This opportunity encourages students to interact with other future health professionals by attending a series of 6 meetings throughout the school year. Seven hundred students from the different professions are divided into groups comprising 10 students, each facilitated by one faculty advisor from the various professional colleges at the University of Kentucky.

The first meeting of the year consisted of a video presentation featuring a number of health professionals discussing the importance in interprofessional collaboration. We students and our respective faculty member learned about interprofessionalism and the impact it makes on our health care systems. Students then met with our breakout group and explained each of our profession’s scope of practice, admission process, curriculum, and licensure requirements. Hearing the different responsibilities and capabilities of other professionals gave us a sense of appreciation and respect for the other health care providers with whom we will be closely working throughout our careers.

At the second meeting of the year, we heard from a panel of professionals representing each field of study. These panelists were able to explain further issues with their scope of practice, challenges, experiences, and the importance of working collaboratively with other health care professionals, allowing us to better understand how each profession contributes to a patient’s health. It became clear to me that pharmacy students who have not personally experienced an extensive health encounter may not fully realize what other professionals are capable of contributing to patient care.

The third meeting of iCATS was a favorite for many because we were able to hear from patients with chronic conditions who interact with health care professionals on a daily basis. The patients gave examples of times when their providers worked together as a team and positively impacted their care in doing so; they also described times when communication and leadership among providers was poor and had a negative impact. Hearing experiences from patients solidified the importance of interprofessional cooperation and the extent to which it can affect a patient’s health.

At this point in many health care students’ education, we are mentally absorbing all the information we can to be a more effective provider; through iCATS, we will physically use the information we are learning in the classroom and work to address a health care issue as a member of an interprofessional team.

Interprofessional education programs such as iCATS expose students to the complex world of health care that they will experience in real-life settings. These programs provide them with the communication and team skills needed to be successful and effective health care providers. Furthermore, they provide a foundation for how we will conduct ourselves as members of a health care team by helping us to understand when to step up and lead, when to step aside and let someone better suited take charge, when to ask for help, and whom to call when new challenges arise. Not only will interprofessional collaboration make us better health professionals, it will also enable us to create a better health care system.

Shelby C. Duncan is a 2020 PharmD candidate at the University of Kentucky College of Pharmacy, Lexington, KY.