By Kate Hunger
Second-year occupational therapy student Carlos Herrera’s idea for an innovative interprofessional education opportunity turned into a reality this September.
Herrera, president of the Master’s in Occupational Therapy Class of 2019 and UT System Student Advisory Council vice chair for medical and graduate students, was intrigued by the possibilities of bringing second-year OT students and second-year medical students together to learn about health professions through roleplaying. He proposed his idea and then worked with various stakeholders in the School of Health Professions, Department of Occupational Therapy and School of Medicine to plan the Sept. 6 event that drew 250 students together for an evening of interprofessional learning.
“I thought being in a situation where your role wasn’t completely understood would make things a little more vulnerable for everybody and put them on an even playing field,” Herrera said.
University President William L. Henrich, M.D., MACP, opened the evening with a keynote address on the value of teamwork, said Bridgette Piernik -Yoder, Ph.D., OTR, associate professor and chair of the Department of Occupational Therapy.
Before the event, each participating student had been assigned homework, including a health professional role, a patient case, and techniques of communication. Students watched videos on good communication and positive interprofessional relationships before the roleplaying exercise began. The attendees divided up into groups and worked through their cases from the perspective of their assigned role. Herrera, for example, was a lead physician.
“It was a big undertaking,” Herrera said of the event. “It’s pretty amazing how it all got done.”
Student and faculty feedback to the pilot project was positive, said Piernik-Yoder, noting that organizers will be considering expanding the experience to include a wider range of health professions.
For Herrera, authentic interprofessional education has the potential to make a long-lasting impact.
“When we go out and work with these students who are going to be amazing doctors, maybe we can have some relationships where we can be open and communicate,” Herrera said.