By Wendy Sarubbi | January 12, 2015 9:18 am

Believing they will provide better care as partners, nearly 200 medical, nursing and pharmacy students from UCF and the University of Florida have created a healthcare coalition that included a summit at Nemours Children’s Hospital January 9 where students learned together how to draw blood, use tourniquets and suture wounds.

The “Teamwork Makes the Dream Work” summit also included guests from as far away as Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale and Florida State University in Tallahassee. “We are very interested in providing efficient, high-quality patient care, and part of that requires having an interdisciplinary team,” said second-year UCF medical student Rahim Ismail, who comes from a family of pharmacists and helped organize the student Interprofessional Healthcare Coalition (IPHC).

The summit’s discussions, teaching and hands-on experiences were interdisciplinary as well. Dr. Laura Gonzalez, assistant professor at  UCF’S School of Nursing, and a longtime emergency room nurse, spoke to students about her passion that medical professionals “speaking the same language” to offer the best care. She applauded the interprofessional students for working together so early in their medical careers. “The most successful IPE programs are student-driven—and for that, I support you,” she said.

Nurses from Nemours taught the phlebotomy and suturing workshops. UCF nursing students showed their medical and pharmacy school colleagues how to tie tourniquets, find veins and draw blood safely while working on mannequin arms. Each student had an opportunity to draw blood, as the nursing students looked on, offering tips and direction on just where to position the needle, or how to safely dispose of it when finished.

The suturing workshop was set up like an operating room, and each student donned blue scrubs and gloves. Operating room nurses from Nemours demonstrated stitching on human tissue samples. Students worked alongside the nurses, many of them suturing for the first time. With needles and thread in hand, they carefully closed up lacerations, comparing their progress to that of the instructors.

As the students have trained together, faculty members have also challenged them to use teamwork in the research setting. Before the summit, students were organized into teams, and given a patient problem to solve together. Working through the holiday break, each team developed a poster with their conclusions and presented their plans to fellow students and faculty members at the summit.

One group developed a plan for a patient suffering from high blood pressure and diabetes who complained of numbness in his legs. The students learned that the patient was not controlling his diabetes well and was suffering from incredibly high blood sugars.  They prescribed him medication, and created a regular schedule for him to take his blood pressure medications and insulin. They also suggested follow-up visits to track the patient’s progress and lifestyle changes. “It’s interesting to see what types of skills that we each bring to the table,” said UF pharmacy student Mike Turk. “Medical students are the experts in the disease states, and we’re the experts in the drugs– we’re much better together than we are apart.”

UCF College of Medicine associate professor Dr. Judy Simms-Cendan knows about interdisciplinary partnership first-hand. In addition to teaching, she specializes in adolescent gynecology and obstetrics and her patients often have special needs. For that reason, she told students that housekeepers, receptionists, social workers, nurses and psychologists all play roles in the care of her patients.  “I can’t function and I can’t take care of my patients without all of those people coming into play,” she said.

Interprofessional group founders plan to continue offering similar events, and growing their organization across Florida and beyond. “During third and fourth year, you get into rotations—and it may be the first time that you get interaction with other fields,” said medical student Ismail. “We want to get that background now, because it translates to a higher quality of care for our future patients, and that’s what we’re all here for.”

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