The concept seems almost self-evident: In any work setting, the more we know about the roles and responsibilities of other professionals, the more effectively we can serve clients.
But how do university programs teach that concept to graduate students in a way that mirrors work settings, with collaborative teaming and clinical problem-solving experiences?
Collaborative teaming is but one of the challenging topics facing graduate clinical training programs struggling to connect classroom theory to actual patient-based clinical practice (see "So Long, Silos"). Course instructors deal with other thorny topics as well: how to help students to view a patient as a whole person, and not simply as a person with a possible communication impairment; how to prepare students to be professionals in a collaborative work environment; and how to simulate "real-world" roles for students as clinical service providers.
Common pedagogical practices in communication sciences and disorders—such as using technology to simulate patient care, problem-based learning to develop clinical problem solving skills and academic service learning—are effective in improving student learning outcomes, but can leave out important stakeholders in the clinical process: patients and experts from other related disciplines. To address this shortcoming, CSD programs are turning to the curricular innovations of interprofessional education and the use of patient simulations.
Two sessions at the 2013 ASHA Convention will focus on these topics:
- Cutting-Edge Graduate Education: Interprofessional Education and Patient Simulations, co-sponsored by three convention topic committees (General Education, Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, and Clinical Education and Supervision) and ASHA Special Interest Group 10, Issues in Higher Education. Six instructors who use IPE or patient simulations in their graduate training programs will present data on the efficacy of these teaching strategies and will address questions related to the design and implementation of IPE and patient simulations.
- Educating Clinicians in the 21st Century: Challenges and Opportunities in Supervision and Teaching, co-sponsored by SIG 10 and SIG 11, Administration and Supervision. This short course (requires pre-registration and an additional fee, discounted for SIG members) will present IPE as one of three important issues in the preparation of CSD students and clinicians. Six professionals from the SIGs will discuss the challenges and opportunities of IPE and other relevant topics.
In IPE, students work across disciplinary boundaries to gain experience with comprehensive patient care. They may learn collaboratively with students from other disciplines or from instructors from other disciplines in their own classes. Although IPE has been a staple of medical education for more than a decade, CSD programs are just beginning to adopt IPE to expose graduate students to other professions such as nursing, dietetics, physical therapy, occupational therapy or social work.
IPE is relevant to clinicians in any setting. In the medical arena, students must learn to collaborate with physicians, nurses, physical therapists, occupational therapists, social workers, respiratory therapists, nutritionists and other health care providers. In schools, CSD students must learn to interact effectively with teachers, psychologists, social workers, counselors, administrators and other educational professionals. IPE experiences in graduate school help students develop interpersonal and communication skills, both of which are essential in the workplace.
In patient simulations, students practice clinical skills with online or standardized patients. In virtual simulation, students interact with computerized virtual patients who have common communication disorders. Standardized patients are portrayed by live actors who have been trained to act as though they have some sort of communication disorder.
These simulations are developed carefully to depict a patient or an aspect of a patient's illness according to specific learning outcomes. As with IPE, patient simulations have been used widely in medical fields, but are just now gaining momentum in CSD programs.
Patient simulations extend traditional problem-based learning, in which students must use critical thinking skills to solve complex problems, by allowing students to practice decision making without risking harm to the patient and with input from faculty, who are familiar with the virtual client.
To learn more, keep an eye out for these IPE and patient-simulation presentations at the convention.