Interprofessional Teamwork Amid a Global Pandemic

By Catie Lazorka

What is the most important skill to have during a global pandemic? Teamwork. We all must come together to reach a common goal, and that is exactly what we did during my interprofessional education (IPE).

What is IPE

IPE trains students from different health professions to work together in order to best help the patient. It allows students to gain a better understanding of each other’s work while also fine-tuning our collaboration and communication skills.

Traditionally, IPE occurs in a clinical setting with all students, professionals, and the patient together in the same room. However, to best follow social distancing guidelines and keep everyone as safe as possible, IPE was turned into a telehealth experience. Not only was I getting experience working alongside other disciplines, I was also getting my first encounter with telehealth. Talk about a robust experience!

IPE as a Telehealth Experience

IPE in itself presents learning experiences and challenges, and adding a telehealth component on top of an already intimidating experience made me exceptionally nervous for my first day. I continued to think about all of the things that could go wrong, such as a spotty connection, people talking over one another, and the logistics of creating a collaborative plan with others without actually being with them in person. Nevertheless, I moved forward with confidence and completed my IPE experience. Here is how it went:

I first completed an online training with professionals and other students. We went over a tool called a flowsheet which helped us organize our thoughts and hone in on the main problems our patient was experiencing. We also talked in small groups in order to better understand each other’s unique discipline. This helped shape our collaboration efforts. Next, I started seeing patients.

Just before each patient arrived, we prepared by discussing any relevant medical history, lab values and other information. We also created a plan for who would talk first, second, third and fourth. My group decided that our order would be as follows: nurse practitioner student, pharmacy student, dietetics student, then the social work student. We used an interpreter for each patient which presented its own unique barriers, such as words getting lost in translation and remembering to be very succinct, clear and concise when I asked a question.  After hearing the patients’ concerns and their answers to our questions, we were then able to discuss opinions from each discipline’s unique lens. Then, as a team we created an intervention for this patient. We were able to help this patient without ever actually meetingin person – something I never thought I would do prior to this pandemic.

I really understood the benefit of working in a multidisciplinary team when we were discussing possible recommendations for a patient with uncontrolled type 2 diabetes and depression. The team member from social work explained the side effects from certain antidepressant medications. I wasn’t familiar with this and it was good for me to be aware. Conversely, I was able to explain the importance of spreading carbohydrates out throughout the day to help manage type 2 diabetes to the team. Together we were able to share our knowledge and craft a solid plan.

The unique aspects of this experience taught me how important collaboration is. It also gave me more confidence to work in a clinical setting and it showed me how important technology is when faced with unprecedented times such as a global pandemic. You truly never know when you will use certain skills, and we could not have been successful without understanding how to utilize technology and telehealth to create behavior change. I thoroughly enjoyed this experience and I feel comfortable working with an interpreter, collaborating an interdisciplinary team, counseling clients and patients, and using telehealth. With great challenges come unique and amazing breakthroughs, and I can say that at the very least, this pandemic has taught us all that teamwork truly does do wonders.

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