Yakima Valley photo

By Alli Benjamin

A growing interest in expanding interprofessional Education (IPE) has spurred a range of IPE initiatives in the Yakima Valley in the last year. Though IPE is not a new concept in health science education, it certainly takes the commitment of all health professionals and healthcare systems to succeed. A third party helps this vision come to life in central Washington– the support of the community, local organizations, and higher education partners.

“Leaders in our community began asking questions about how to change healthcare for the better for our region. So several groups began by analyzing our communities’ needs, resources we have available, identifying healthcare providers and higher education institutes,” said Sandy Carollo, Yakima Campus Director. “We determined that bringing IPE to our area could create the biggest impact to improve health, healthcare, and create more effective healthcare models.”

A steering committee was developed and included representatives from WSU Colleges of Nursing and Pharmacy; Heritage University Physician Assistant and pre-licensure BSN nursing programs; Yakima Valley Community College allied health programs; and the Pacific Northwest University Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine program.

The collaborative received a big boost this past July when Pacific Northwest Health Sciences University received a $1.675 million HRSA grant to develop and measure the efficacy of a rural, community-based interprofessional practice and education program. Though the college is not an official partner yet, WSU nursing students have been able to participate in the educational learning opportunities.

The steering committee continues to guide the effort, and has expanded to include key community stakeholders: Yakima-based hospitals, Yakima Valley Farmworker’s Clinic, dental clinics, Central Washington University, assisted living and long term care facilities, Yakima School District, representatives from the agriculture industry and more. A range of professionals comprises the committee: nurses, student nurses, doctors, pharmacists, nutritionists, a spiritual advisor, paramedics, dietetics, physician assistants, allied health professionals, and dentists. The diversity of the group helps solve shared challenges among the organizations.

“We all acknowledge the difficulty in placing students in clinical sites so we’ve used this group to try to creatively explore the issue,” Carollo said. “We are also supportive of working together to help each other in reaching shared goals, such as a hospital seeking magnet status. They need partners’ help to meet the myriad of metrics required – preparing a certain percentage of BSN nurses, access to scholars, research. While we all have our own interests, it benefits the region.”

Since kicking off events in the fall, the group has been busy hosting a variety of activities including simulations, community flu vaccination clinics, meet and greets with large healthcare systems, and more. Interprofessional activities have been hosted, and this past November, more than 300 first semester health science students participated in one! Another activity focused on communication including the Situation, Background, Assessment and Recommendation (SBAR) technique where students interacted with across disciplines to share their initial diagnoses and care recommendations.

“There was one particular scenario around challenges in relaying communication. In this instance, students were working with a Hispanic monolingual woman who could not make her appointment because her car broke down. Students worked to understand her needs, the resources she had available to her, and work as a team to resolve the issue,” Carollo said.

BSN junior Kaci Johnson values another aspect that IPE activities have taught her and fellow health science professionals: the importance of eliminating the hierarchy in practice between the various specialties while bringing the best from each profession.

“At one of the IPE events, we discussed how healthcare usually has a hierarchy in practice. With all of us being new students in our profession, that hierarchy doesn’t exist and we are learning what each professional contributes to patient care. We are being taught to work together, value each other’s strength and expertise. We want to work better together, and we’ll enter practice with that mindset,” Johnson said.