Interdisciplinary day brings student physicians and pharmacists together

SmallGroup2On Nov. 8, the West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine (WVSOM) and the University of Charleston School of Pharmacy (UCSOP) collaborated on an interdisciplinary day of training held at the Clinical Evaluation Center on WVSOM’s Lewisburg campus.
Activities included the presentation of cases by students, a discussion on pain management and ethics, as well as interactions with robotic patient simulators and standardized patients: individuals from the community who have been trained to accurately portray the role of a patient suffering from specific medical conditions.
In one exercise, students participated in an Inter-Professional Case Conference titled “Chronic Non-Malignant Pain Pharmacotherapy,” led by David G. Bowyer, R.Ph., UCSOP interim chair Pharmacy Practice and director of Experiential Education.
Bowyer reviewed the case details with students and then sub-groups of medical students and pharmacy students collaborated on a care plan for the hypothetical patient.
The patient presentation details were the same for each group’s patient, but the photos of the patients were different – for example: old or young, well-dressed or poorly-dressed. One objective of the exercise was to help students identify where they may be bringing hidden biases to their assessment of the patient. Was the patient displaying “drug-seeking behavior” or genuinely in pain? And if pain management was needed, what were the optimal treatments?
“It’s the same presentation for all the groups,” Bowyer told the students, “but a different patient. One challenge is to determine if care providers are creating their assessments and treatment plans solely on the facts of the case. Differences in care plans may reveal hidden biases based on the patient’s age, appearance, or other external factors.”
Jacob Smith is a third-year medical student currently conducting clinical rotations in the South West Region of WVSOM’s Statewide Campus System.
“These inter-professional events represent a great opportunity to begin establishing understanding among different groups of health care providers before we get into actual practice,” he said.
UC Pharmacy student Kevin Dilley agreed. “The medical students and the pharmacy students each bring a different frame of reference and different types of knowledge to a problem,” he said. “This interdisciplinary training offers a good way to become comfortable working together as a team.”
Today’s rapidly changing health care marketplace is increasingly focused on team-based care – health care that is developed, coordinated and delivered by a team of providers that may include physicians, pharmacists, social workers, physician assistants and nurse practitioners.
“The goal is to deliver improved patient outcomes,” said Gail Feinberg, D.O., and associate dean of WVSOM’s South West Region. “Sometimes errors get made when a patient is transitioning from one care provider to another. Interdisciplinary training helps everyone to have a better understanding of where they fit within the overall health care experience of the patient. When everyone is on the same page, there are fewer errors and better patient care.”
After a long day of intense training, the medical students and pharmacy students boarded transportation to carry them back to Charleston or Huntington. Quiet conversations revealed similar themes – it’s a new age in health care. How can health care providers from different disciplines redefine their relationships to better coordinate care for the patient? The collaborations taking place before the students even attain their degrees may represent an important first step.