Students Learn the Value of Interprofessional Teamwork for Patient Care

Rutgers School of Nursing-Camden students prepare a vaccination during a recent clinic.

Rutgers School of Nursing-Camden students prepare a vaccination during a recent clinic.

Professionals from across disciplines often collaborate with each other in order to deliver key services to the community as effectively and efficiently as possible. In the healthcare industry, that kind of communication is essential to patient care.

Rutgers–Camden students in the law, nursing, and social work fields recently joined students from the Cooper Medical School of Rowan University to see cross-disciplinary collaboration at work during the inaugural Interprofessional Education Initiative, held at Rutgers–Camden in September.

More than 100 students participated in the program, which was designed to promote a better understanding of how the fields of law, medicine, and social work communicate across professions.

“It was a tremendous learning experience, to collaborate and learn how to think critically and problem solve by working together,” says Janice Beitz, a professor of nursing at the Rutgers School of Nursing–Camden and director of Rutgers–Camden’s wound, ostomy, and continence nursing certificate program.

Faculty members from Rutgers–Camden and the Cooper Medical School of Rowan University led discussions during five different case studies that covered issues of emergency informed consent, end-of-life care, English as a second language, HIV care, and perinatal issues.

“This is the first step in working together to improve patient care throughout the region,” says Michael Goldberg, associate dean for education at the Cooper Medical School of Rowan University. “Everyone needs to know what role they play in providing the best patient care as fully and wholly as possible. That’s the goal of this program.”

Kimberly Mutcherson, a professor of law at the Rutgers School of Law–Camden, says there are a number of occasions in which a lawyer might have to work with professionals from various fields in order to provide competent representation to a client.

“We wanted law students to understand the ways in which their expertise might be limited and occasions when it would be of benefit to them and to their clients to work across disciplines,” Mutcherson says. “We also wanted to confront them with real-world case studies as a way of getting them to think concretely about the kind and nature of dilemmas that they might need to confront once they leave the law school.”

Similarly, the program offered social work students an exclusive opportunity to collaborate with their partners in the helping professions of nursing, medicine, and law.

“Social workers, by virtue of our academic curriculum, are no stranger to the case study. However, when the conditions were changed by opening up dialogue between other professionals, a certain magic occurred,” says Jennifer Boiler, a field education coordinator and instructor for the Rutgers School of Social Work. “It was very inspiring to observe the interplay between budding professionals as they dissected the case and realized that to arrive at the best interventions they would have to work together.”

The event provided a way for students to interact professionally with each other, an opportunity they typically don’t have through individual course study.

“I gained a better understanding of the approach that each discipline takes in addressing ambiguous problems,” said David Pierce, a senior nursing major at Rutgers–Camden. “As future nurses, we are the bridge between the doctors who treat the patients, the social workers who manage psychosocial issues, and the attorneys who manage legal issues. Discussing difficult case studies with them helped us understand all the rules or precedents that pertain to specific situations.”

Kurt Reh, a first-year student at the Rutgers School of Law–Camden, says the program was an eye-opening experience that taught him how crucial it is to have members of different professions working together in order to solve complicated problems.

“Each of these professions has knowledge and skills that when combined, create a type of synergy that allows for these problems to be solved more efficiently,” Reh says. “It is absolutely necessary to have these professions working together, especially in emergency room instances where there are only a few minutes to save a life.”

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