A team of students from different colleges and programs cooperate during a simulation exercise.

By Addy Hatch

Crimson scrubs, white lab coats and black polo shirts mingled in the basement of the College of Nursing this week as an interprofessional simulation got under way. The scenario: a Cougar football player collapses in 97-degree heat in the afternoon session of “daily doubles” practice.

Teams included students from WSU Spokane’s College of Nursing and College of Pharmacy, the University’s Athletic Training and Nutrition Exercise and Physiology programs, and the University of Washington’s MEDEX Northwest physician assistant program.

Interprofessional education in health care means students from different professions working together from the very beginning of their training, learning from each other, and learning to respect each other, cooperate and communicate. When that interprofessional approach is transferred to health care, evidence and experience says the outcomes will include lower costs, higher patient satisfaction and better community health. Both the World Health Organization and the Institute for Medicine advocate interprofessional education and practice for those reasons.

Before the simulation, students took part in an ice-breaking exercise involving building paper chains. Barbara Richardson, PhD, MN, and director of Riverpoint Interprofessional Education and Research, led the students through some of the immediate lessons: situational awareness, the need to have a leader, the importance of having someone keep track of time, and if you don’t agree with something the group is doing, speak up.

“It scares me a lot that medical errors are the third-leading cause of death in the United States,” Richardson told the students. “More than 200,000 people a year die of medical errors, approximately 75 percent of which are caused by miscommunication. That’s why it’s imperative we learn to speak up.”

Then students headed to the sim labs, where athletic training and nutrition and exercise physiology students evaluated and transported a man playing the “football player” from the field. Next, nursing, pharmacy and PA students took over on a mannequin who eventually went into cardiac arrest, requiring resuscitation.

When it was over – and the football player was saved – the teams gathered for a debrief, getting feedback from faculty and from each other. They talked about problems getting the spine board in just the right place, how one group forgot to communicate vitals to another, and how much physical exertion is required to administer CPR. Said one instructor, “It’s a lot harder than it looks, especially on TV.”

» view photos from the simulation