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The IU Interprofessional Practice and Education Center helps graduates offer better care

Feb. 3, 2017

The Indiana University Interprofessional Practice and Education Center has reported to the IU Board of Trustees on its work to implement a statewide initiative enabling IU health science graduates to work in teams, resulting in higher quality health care, more comprehensive patient care and a measurably healthier Indiana.

Health science students

Thanks to Interprofessional Practice and Education, IU health science graduates offer patients better care. | PHOTO BY INDIANA UNIVERSITY

Those outcome goals were finalized by the trustees and incorporated into the strategic plans for the IU Bicentennial in 2014, the IU School of Medicine and Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis. The IU Interprofessional Practice and Education Center was established in September 2014 to achieve them.

“The center has worked with health science faculty across IU to create a common curriculum for all health science schools that teaches students how to work across professions to better meet the health needs of patients and communities,” said Andrea Pfeifle, director of the center and assistant dean and associate professor of family medicine in the IU School of Medicine.

“The goal is for learners to have hands-on experiences working on health care teams during their training so that they can work together effectively in teams when they graduate," Pfeifle said.

Underlying that goal is mounting evidence that “working in teams yields safer care and better health care outcomes -- so being able to do that is one of the most sought-after skillsets in the health industry right now,” she said.

Each of IU’s health science schools produces graduates who are well prepared to work in their particular health field, but until recently they were not necessarily well prepared to work in teams.

"Interprofessional collaboration doesn't just happen because professions work in the same location; it takes intentionality and specific communication skills," Pfeifle said.

To date, the pilot projects leading to the newly developed interprofessional curriculum have touched about 3,500 health science students in one form or another. Beginning in the fall, all students admitted to health science programs at all of IU's campuses will follow the curriculum in its entirety, which includes attention to individual and population health outcomes.

“Increasingly, accrediting bodies are making interprofessional health practice and education a part of their program requirements," said Dr. Jay L. Hess, dean of the IU School of Medicine and vice president of university clinical affairs, the governing body that supports the center. “But more importantly, this is the future. This ensures that safer, higher quality health care is delivered. We need to prepare our learners for that future.”

This system-wide voluntary collaboration to transform the curriculum across the health profession schools makes IU’s program unique, with few peers across the country, positioning the university to have tremendous impact on the delivery of health care across the state, according to Pfeifle. 

The center is also working with community partners to identify places where learners can become part of teams and interface with real-word practices. Additionally, it is collaborating with health care employers in Indiana to help them adopt a team approach to health care through professional development programs.

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