Hey readers! The MGH Institute of Health Professions strongly values interprofessional practice and because of that, I have participated in a handful of interprofessional activities already during OT school. Some of the activities I have participated in so far include team simulations and interprofessional clinician observations.
What is interprofessional practice?
Interprofessional practice in healthcare involves practitioners working with members of their own field as well as members from other healthcare disciplines in order to provide optimal, comprehensive care to their patients.
Why is this important?
Interprofessional practice in integral in providing the highest quality healthcare. Patients have multiple practitioners from various disciplines doing their own assessments and writing treatment plans as part of their care. If each of these practitioners are not on the same page, the client may end up repeating a lot of information during assessments and the practitioners may not be able to provide comprehensive care. They may be providing treatments that do not flow well together, or they may be providing unnecessary treatments that other practitioners are already handling. Interprofessional practice prevents this from happening by promoting communication between practitioners which allows them to understand each discipline’s point of view and role in the care team and to come up with a treatment plan that works for everyone, especially the patient.
Now let’s talk about my experiences thus far!
Starting the first full semester of OT school, we started participating in team simulations. I’m not going to lie, it really felt like we were just thrown into the deep end at first. We literally knew nothing (I sometimes still feel this way…I still have a long way to go!) and we were assigned an interprofessional team and had to work together. If you haven’t heard of them before, simulations are essentially “practice” for working with real patients. We do them a lot during OT school because if you are going to mess up or say the wrong thing, it’s better to do so with an actor than a real patient!
During the simulations, my school brings in actors who are told to act a certain way to portray a certain kind of patient or situation. As a team, we receive a case summary and then decide who has to go into the patient room to perform an initial assessment or interview. Usually, 3-5 of us go into the patient’s room to represent one person from various disciplines, such as occupational therapy, speech-language pathology, physical therapy, nurse practitioners, physician’s assistants, and medical doctors. So far, I have had to go in each time (because OTs are just so important in the care team!!). As a team, we have worked with families of patients who break down in tears, patients and their families together, patients who are in denial of their diagnosis and caretakers who are very negative.
Observing Clinicians From Different Disciplines
This was a really cool experience. I had the opportunity to observe both a nurse and a speech-language pathologist in an inpatient hospital setting. During my experience observing a nurse, I saw honestly just how busy a nurse is ALL THE TIME. I have heard about this so many times from my mom (she is a nurse), but I feel like I didn’t truly understand until I was walking back and forth between patient rooms and up and down the hallway 1,000 times. And I was only there for 4 hours! Some of the things that I got to see the nurse do were administering medications, taking care of patient hygiene needs, and advocating for her patients to their doctors.
I’m not going to lie, observing an SLP literally made me almost want to be one. (Don’t worry, I am still 100% OT, but SLP honestly would have been my second choice!). I had such an amazing experience shadowing an SLP for 4 hours. Some of the things that I observed the SLP doing were assessing feeding and swallowing with various foods and drinks (example: crackers and juice with varying levels of thickener in the juice), assessing cognition and the potential impact on initiating and understanding speech, and a swallow study. I was lucky enough to observe the Fiberoptic Endoscopic Evaluation of Swallowing (FEES) on a patient who had sustained an inhalation injury from smoke from a fire. This was seriously one of the coolest things I have ever seen. During the FEES, the SLP used a camera that went in through the nose to show the part of the larynx, the vocal cords, and the epiglottis. We were able to watch the muscles contract as the patient swallowed food and drink, and the SLP was able to use this information to determine whether the patient was safe to eat solid foods and drink liquids without thickener.
What I’ve Learned
Simulations have been a very unique learning experience. I have gained insight into the role that each discipline plays in the care team as well as what their point of view is regarding the patient’s care. One discipline’s priority may be something that I do not look at at all as an OT. Furthermore, I have realized that there is more overlap between disciplines than I realized. For example, OT and SLP are both concerned with cognition, and OT and PT are both concerned with mobility (but with different end goals). We have also talked about how it is becoming common for interprofessional teams to conduct initial assessments together in order to prevent repetition for the patient and to promote cohesiveness between professions. This is great practice for the future in being able to work as a team to gather information and communicate effectively with the patient and with each other.
Observing practitioners from different disciplines was also an invaluable experience for my education. I think that this is a really unique thing that the IHP does, and I am so grateful for the experience! These two observation experiences provided me with a deeper appreciation for all that healthcare providers from other fields do. I also learned more about the actual role of a nurse and an SLP in the care team and gained perspective into how their roles may coincide (or not) with mine as an OT. I think that these experiences will make me an every better OT in the future because I will be able to understand other clinicians’ roles, refer my patients when necessary, and empathize with clinicians regarding their work and caseload.
Have you ever gotten to practice interprofessional care? Comment below!
Thanks for reading!