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First-Year UCSF Students Unite in Interprofessional Classroom

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First-year students across all UCSF schools met together for the first of three interprofessional education sessions.
Photo: Susan Merrell

By MS1 Zoe Kornberg

What is the ideal size and make-up of a care team in a general pediatrics practice? How can a dentist and a doctor work together to improve a mutual patient’s health? What can the staff in an operating room do to reduce hospital-borne infections?

UCSF introduces systems-based problem solving from the start of our education. On October 5, first-year students from dentistry, medicine, nursing, pharmacy and physical therapy assembled for the first of three interprofessional education sessions.

Chancellor Sam Hawgood spoke to UCSF’s commitment to prepare its students to become leaders in their respective fields by developing these critical skills early in our education. 

Department of Medicine Interim Chair Robert Wachter, MD, and Assistant Professor of Clinical Pharmacology Sheri Van Osdol, an expert in outcomes research and leader in patient safety improvement at UCSF, co-led the session. They introduced us to the case of a real patient, who was admitted to UCSF Medical Center’s Benioff Children’s Hospital. The care team accidentally administered a 39-fold dose of Septra to the teenage patient, causing a grand mal seizure. According to firsthand accounts from the staff, the patient, and the patient’s family, the error could be attributed to a poorly designed electronic medical record and breakdown of interprofessional communication.

Small groups of students from each discipline discussed the barriers to interprofessional collaboration and strategized how to minimize the chance of committing such an error again in the future. My group discussed ending the “don’t stop the line” culture. The patient’s nurse was new to the pediatric floor and did not feel comfortable interrupting her colleagues to ask about the medication dosage.

In the first eight weeks of my education at UCSF, I have already had several opportunities to learn from my interprofessional peers. Physical therapy students teach my surface anatomy classes; their expertise brought the dermatomes, myotomes, and physical exam skills to life for me. The October 5th session taught me how nursing departments are structured and about pharmacy robots. I enjoyed meeting my peers from the other schools at UCSF and hearing their perspectives on the case.

Before starting medical school, I worked as a medical assistant for two years. My responsibilities included handing implements to the clinician during office procedures, building a medical history and performing patient education (among other things). I worked closely with physicians, nurses, physician assistants and therapists. I look forward to learning more about how to build teams of health care professionals who can trust each other, communicate well and work cohesively in the joint mission to improve the health and lives of our patients.