SPOKANE – Three teams of health sciences students on WSU Spokane’s Riverpoint campus have begun work on a medical case that will test how well their members work together.
 
First-year Spokane medical student
Catherine Stout practices giving an
oral exam to a dental student from
Eastern Washington University. (Photo
by Cori Vaughn, WSU Spokane)
The students are competing in a Health Care Team Challenge, which will culminate at 4:30 p.m. Monday, April 11, with the groups presenting their findings at WSU Spokane’s South Campus facility. The competition is sponsored by the Riverpoint Interprofessional Education and Research (RIPER) student group, which includes health sciences students from WSU, Eastern Washington University and the University of Washington.
 
The team challenge is based on similar competitions held at universities in Canada, Japan and Australia – countries that have fervently embraced the idea of teamwork in health care – said RIPER student group advisor Barb Richardson. In the U.S., Richardson said, the concept is catching on in clinical settings, but not much yet in health sciences education.
 
Ken Roberts, who directs the WWAMI (Washington Wyoming Alaska Montana Idaho) Medical Education Program in Spokane, said that needs to change.
 
“Health care is a ‘team sport,’” he said. “Diseases are diagnosed and patients are treated though the combined efforts of doctors, nurses, pharmacists and other health care professionals. It makes sense for the future team members to practice together.”
 
There are some instances on campus where students from different health-related disciplines work together; for example, in the College of Nursing’s simulation lab. First-year medical and dental students also take some of the same anatomy classes. But Richardson said more should be done.
 
“The ultimate goal is to infuse more interprofessional collaboration into the curriculum,” she said.
 
The case study involves a real patient with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), or Lou Gehrig’s Disease. The disease kills nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord and impedes the brain’s ability to send messages to the muscles. The disease’s victims gradually lose their ability to eat, breathe and move. They eventually become paralyzed and die.
 
“We had a patient recently spend an hour with the students” to give them an idea of what a person living with ALS is dealing with, Richardson. She said a nurse practitioner from the WSU College of Nursing faculty reviewed the patient’s health history with the students and answered their questions. Now, she said, the students must come up with a care plan for the patient.
 
At the event, they will present their answers to a panel of faculty, health professionals and students. After that, the panel will give each group an additional challenge involving the same patient. Group members will make a second presentation about how they would address the new development.
 
“We want to see how well they work together as a team,” said Richardson, “whether it’s shared decision making or one person dominating the discussion.”
 
The judges will pick a winning team. Its members will each receive a Kindle wireless reading device.