By Joanne Conroy, MD
Interprofessional learning involves professionals and students learning from and withstudents from other professions. It means learning to be a good team player, and understanding shared goals for patient care. Teamwork behaviors involve creating a patient-centered environment of care, coordinating care to remove gaps and errors, and collaborating with others through shared decision making, especially in circumstances of uncertainty. Understanding how team processes can affect team members, overall team functioning, and outcomes of team-based care is an important part of being an effective team member.
Putting education and training into practice requires specific leadership skills in order to create a great team. Conflicts might arise over leadership, especially when status or power is confused with authority based on professional expertise. Strong leaders in team-based care value all team members’ potential contributions and interact with team members in ways that build support for working together. They are authentic, and have a powerful impact on team behaviors by what they say and how they act.
There is a debate about the effectiveness of interprofessional education in enabling collaborative practice. More empirical evidence of longer-term impact of interprofessionalism is needed, particularly in respect to measurable effects on quality, service, and outcomes. The stories presented October 25 at the Jon Michael Moore Trauma Center Night of Recognition at the West Virginia University (WVU) Ruby Memorial Hospital provide that evidence.
The director of the trauma center, Alison Wilson MD FACS, started the Night of Recognition four years ago. It has grown annually, filling a ballroom this year. The Night of Recognition celebrates patients who are “walking miracles,” to illustrate the value of teamwork. However, the packed room that evening was there to honor the teamwork by first responders, lab techs, ICU nurses, and post-acute care providers who responded to gravely injured patients in their hour of need.
The injuries suffered by these patients were significant: a child with a ruptured duodenum from a bicycle accident, a miner who was pinned by a one-ton boulder, a rider who had his chest crushed by his ATV, and a West Virginia state police corporal who was shot in the chest by a suspect at close range. It took the effort of a well-rounded team to care for these severely injured individuals and to rebuild their lives. All patients mentioned have returned to their lives in full recovery.
The corporal said that, as he was wheeled into the trauma unit, he saw at least 20 people lining the corridor gloved and gowned, prepared to assess and treat him. He asked to say a prayer before going into the operating room. The trauma surgeon admitted during the recognition ceremony that she silently responded, “That might be a good idea.”
The corporal returned to work within two months and said that his recovery was a testimony to the great teamwork from the sheriff’s department that called for help, the county EMS driver who drove to the scene after hearing the call on the police scanner in anticipation of the need rather than waiting for the call, the helicopter staff who stabilized him, and the countless providers within the WVU system who assisted with his care.
Over the past six years, the Jon Michael Moore Trauma Center has seen over 63,000 patients and returned over 97 percent of them home to their families. This happens because they never forget to say thank you to the team—interprofessional team training in action.
—Joanne Conroy, MD, is Chief Health Care Officer at the Association of American Medical Colleges. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @joanneconroymd.