The purpose of the Health Mentors Program is to provide a 10-month longitudinal interprofessional learning experience including the Fall, Spring, and Summer I semesters. A Health Mentor is an adult with 1 or more chronic illnesses or physical disabilities. Interprofessional Education (IPE)-Educational includes events for 2 or more different health care students. Rationale for Interprofessional Education (IPE) is the mandates by professional accreditation bodies for pre-licensure health care students. Potential barriers include blurred boundaries, jam-packed and rigid curriculums, scheduling conflicts, varied support at the administrative level, and lack of financial resources.
Students from three disciplines of recently admitted pre-licensure health care students were assigned to 16 interprofessional teams (5-7 students per team). The disciplines included 24 Occupational Therapy, 30 Physical Therapy, and 40 Physician Assistant students. Eight Health Mentors were each assigned two groups of IPE students. Health Mentors initially met with both of their student groups in the Fall of 2019 at a large luncheon at the university. The second meeting between the small IPE groups and Health Mentors occurred in Spring 2020 at either the Health MentorÕs home, a community place of their choice, or the university. Some meetings were in person and some were virtual. IPE Faculty met with the Health Mentors after all the visits were completed for MentorÕs assessment of the students and the program. During meeting #1, the studentsÕ knowledge of their own and other health professionalsÕ team roles were assessed by a matching quiz each student completed prior to and after the meeting. The students also completed communication ratings for the other two disciplinesÕ students following both meetings. The focus of the first assessment included how the discipline students did with professional communication with peers. The focus of the second meeting had the same categories, but students were directed to include the communication between the students for scheduling a common meeting time for all three disciplines in the communication rating with peers. The health mentors rated communication for each small group of students by discipline, but the IPE Faculty also met with the Health Mentors for a focus group after all the visits were completed to further understand the MentorÕs assessments of the students and the program.
Overall, the students were rated by their peers as communicating professionally. Immediately after meeting #1, all of the discipline students rated each other on professional communication. Occupational Therapy studentsÕ ratings by the other disciplines: N=63; 42% strongly agreed that the OT students communicated professionally, 19% agreed, 1% was neutral, and 1% disagreed Physical Therapy studentsÕ ratings by the other disciplines: N = 58; 29% strongly agreed that the PT student communicated professionally, 27% agreed, and 2% were neutral. Physician Assistant studentsÕ ratings by the other disciplines. N=54; 21% Strongly agreed that the PA students communicated professionally, 19% agreed, and 14% were neutral.
Conclusions/Relevance to the conference theme:
The literature reveals the best practices for IPE should include shared decision-making, learning other professionalsÕ specialized knowledge, skills and abilities, provide patient-centered care in a collaborative manner and allow each profession to take leadership in the areas of their expertise. More than 50 % of OT and PT students and 40% of PA students were rated strongly agree or agree for professional communication. Peer ratings from the second meeting are currently being analyzed, but more communication issues are expected from these ratings due to the significant difficulties some of the groups had for scheduling a common time for all three discipline students to meet with the Health Mentor. We expect that this difficulty will show up in the peer ratings. Increasing interprofessional education experiences is an important component of DPT education. Assuring best practices and continued research in this area is relevant to the ELC 2020 Theme: Innovating Education to Improve the Clinical Environment. This a program fits well under Enhancing Team Well-Being through Physical Therapy Education because it begins to help PT students learn how to develop interprofessional relationships with students from two other healthcare professions. This program is designed to demystify and provide experience for all of the healthcare students to learn how to be effective interprofessional communicators. This will improve the clinical environment for not just the health care providers, but also simultaneously for the patients/clients to whom the PTs, OTs and PAs are providing care.