With almost half of Americans living with chronic health conditions, an interprofessional team approach is needed to provide coordinated, high-quality patient care that improves patient outcomes. The University of Texas at Austin School of Nursing's efforts to achieve this goal was recently advanced by a $1 million grant from the Health Resources and Services Administration.
The three-year grant will help integrate interprofessional education (IPE) experiences with medicine, pharmacy and social work into the curriculum to provide comprehensive, evidence-based care of persons with multiple chronic conditions in underserved populations. The expanded curriculum will be for students in the graduate level Adult-Gerontology Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS) program. CNSs are advanced practice registered nurses eligible for prescriptive authority who are uniquely suited to work with interprofessional teams managing patients with multiple chronic conditions.
"In many cases, physicians, nurses, pharmacists and other allied health practitioners have struggled to find ways to work together for the good of the patient," said Alexa Stuifbergen, dean of the School of Nursing. "Because learning how to work in teams with other health care providers shouldn't begin on the job, several years ago we began to incorporate collaborative educational experiences into all levels of the nursing curricula. This grant will further our efforts to instill a team approach into nursing education and ultimately into health care settings."
Interprofessional education (IPE) and team building are becoming essential parts of preparing tomorrow's health care professionals. The new Dell Medical School scheduled to open on the UT Austin campus in 2016 has stated a commitment to "improving human health through excellence in interprofessional and trans-disciplinary education, research, health care and community involvement." The new medical school will be unique in taking this foundational approach to IPE.
"It's hard to change after years of doing things a certain way, but we're deliberately moving away from our academic silos to provide students with the tools they need to work seamlessly in interprofessional teams," said Gayle Timmerman, associate dean for academic affairs at the School of Nursing and project director of the HRSA grant. "Health care is complex, and in order to achieve the best outcomes for patients, it's necessary to bring each discipline's unique perspective to the table."