Health Sciences Hosts Interprofessional Education Experiences for Students

By Caitlin Burns | January 27, 2021

By Katherine Haines ’21

How can physician assistants, public health professionals, and physical therapists work together to help patients recover from COVID-19?

In November 2020, the College of Health Sciences (CHS) students explored this question through a two-part interprofessional education (IPE) experience that explored how each field worked together to help a simulated patient diagnosed with COVID-19 recover from the virus and any complications.

“I think that if everyone’s on the same page, then the same education will be given to all patients,” said Physician Assistant student McKinley Marlowe ’22M. “It brought an awareness to all the students that we really should be collaborating and working together as professionals.”

Faculty from the three programs worked together to design the two part IPE experience. The first part, on Nov. 9, brought Physician Assistant (PA) students from both the Glenside and Christiana, Del. campuses together with physical therapist (PT) students from the residential and hybrid cohorts to work through a case experience. The students worked with a “standardized patient,” which is an actor portraying a patient diagnosed with pneumonia secondary to COVID-19. The students conducted a patient interview and functional assessment virtually and gained insight about the symptoms and limitations that may result from COVID-19. Public health students viewed a recording of the simulated case experience to prepare them to participate in part two.

“Of even more importance, by the end of the experience, the students gained a better understanding of the role each health science-related profession plays in patient care and a greater appreciation for the value of collaborative practice and effective communication skills,” said Dr. Alyson Fowler, coordinator of IPE experiences.

The second part of the IPE, held on Nov. 23, had public health students take the lead as they collaborated with a team of PA and PT students to develop a COVID-19 message mapping product and communication strategies. The students were able to better understand the processes and roles of a public health professional and experience working together as a team.

“It was interesting talking with the other programs,” said Public Health student Katelynn Stroth ’21MPH. “They were all very curious about what we were doing in public health and so it was a neat experience to collaborate on this and get an idea where everyone was in their programs and to see what ideas we could come up with during this experience.”

Fowler said that an important aspect of the collaboration is to help students learn the integral roles that all the health science professions play in patient recovery and prevention. Through collaboration and communication, the students gained an appreciation and respect for the roles of the different professionals within the health sciences field.

“Now, I understand the direct communication that needs to happen between all of the pieces for something like this to work,” said dual Public Health and Physician Assistant student Hannah Alexander, ’21MPH, ’23M. “It’s really important that we all work together.”

Even virtually, these events are integral for College of Health Sciences students to understand evolving practices in response to health crises like COVID-19 and to learn how to work best with all the different aspects of the health sciences field.

“I’m grateful for Arcadia and the College of Health Sciences for still persevering and putting on this event, even in light of COVID and all the challenges that we’re facing right now,” said Physical Therapist student Emily Schlechtweg ’22DPT. “It was extremely beneficial for our education and the University clearly saw how important this event was for us.”

The College of Health Sciences hosts several IPE experiences each year for students. The simulated scenario changes each time, although Fowler said she anticipates the COVID-19 scenario will continue to be used as more developments are made about the long term impact of the virus.