By Wendy Sarubbi | May 5, 2014 1:57 pm

team1The Journal of Patient Safety estimates that up to 440,000 patients die a year because of preventable actions such as misdiagnosed conditions and drug interactions.

To reduce those numbers, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality and The Department of Defense created a national program called TeamSTEPPS (Strategy and Tools to Enhance Performance and Patient Safety) to help healthcare providers improve teamwork and communication. Now medical students from UCF and pharmacy students from the University of Florida are piloting their own TeamSTEPPS program. And they’re using it to help prepare volunteers at the KNIGHTS (Keeping Neighbors In Good Health Through Service) Clinic, a free clinic UCF College of Medicine students operate at Orlando’s Grace Medical Home.

UF and UCF faculty worked with about 90 students during the first TeamSTEPPS training session May 1.


“We need everyone to work as a team, pharmacy, nurses and physicians all have different strengths and expertise they can share,” said Erin St. Onge, assistant dean of the UF campus in Medical City, who helped to organize the TeamSTEPPS training.

At KNIGHTS, UCF students handle all operations with faculty supervision. In addition to caring for patients, they handle admissions, triage, lab work, the pharmacy and patient education. With each step, comes a chance for error, misplaced or miscommunicated information. So using the KNIGHTS Clinic intake and consultation process as a guide, UCF and UF students broke into teams to evaluate the current workflow, find ways to improve communications and spot areas where errors could occur. Starting in the fall, UF pharmacy students will join the clinic and help with dispensing medications and patient education.

team3During the training, Dr. Marvin Hardy, Grace Medical Home’s medical director, urged students to speak up if they see omissions or errors that could impact a patient’s health, such as missed test results, undiagnosed symptoms, wrongly prescribed medications or something as simple as a clerical error. He stressed that it only takes one person, whether it’s a medical student, nurse, physician or pharmacist, to make a difference in a patient’s treatment outcome.

“Never forget your patients’ perspective,” he said.  “Listen to your patients’ needs, take ownership and collaborate with others.”

Students said the training helped then by emphasizing teamwork. “It’s all about patient safety,” said Joshua Djac, a first-year UCF medical student and KNIGHTS Clinic volunteer. He said he’s looking forward to collaborating with pharmacy students because of their drug knowledge and the chance to work with other health professionals.

First-year UF pharmacy student, Brett Fleisher, said he is eager to participate in the KNIGHTS Clinic and hopes to raise interest in the TeamSTEPPS program among his classmates. “Normally we (pharmacy students) don’t interact with medical students until we are on medical rotations,” he said, “but getting involved early really builds the team concept.”

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