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Interprofessional Education Takes Hold at Eastern Michigan University

Two years ago, after attending a conference on Interprofessional Education (IPE), Associate Dean and IPE Director Dr. Christine Karshin and her colleagues became inspired to bring IPE to the College of Health and Human Services at Eastern Michigan University (EMU).  This would prove to be a very different approach for faculty from their traditionally structured programs. But with the administration’s full support it has been a steady road to achieving success with this new paradigm.  Dean Murali Nair strongly supports IPE; he was originally influenced by a conversation with a graduating nursing student who asked “what does a social worker do?”  The Dean realized the importance of giving all disciplines a true understanding of what others do; not only to give them the best possible education, but to prepare them to work in highly functioning teams in the workplace.


Pictured: Andrea Gossett Zakrajsek, MS, OTD, OTRL, Associate Professor and Aging Studies Program Director; Paul, patient model; Jacob L Lindquist, MSOP, CPO, Assistant Professor of Orthotics and Prosthetics.

In 2014, EMU established The Office for the Advancement of Interprofessional Education, Research and Practice to support faculty members as they create and implement new IPE opportunities for students.   They have laid the foundation for success with infrastructure, faculty support, funding, and mini grants.  The administration has brought in IPE professionals to consult EMU’s faculty with shared expertise from other universities with successful programs.  There has truly been collaboration on an institutional level, which mirrors the ideals of interprofessional education.

EMU’s team began by putting together a steering committee of faculty from different programs.  This has grown from half a dozen to 16 faculty members from all four of their schools.  They have become the driving force for change, and have developed an IPE strategic plan for the college.  The cornerstone of their program is an IPE faculty scholars program, developed as a three day workshop held each summer.  The participants learn more about IPE concepts and scholars from other universities are brought in to talk about challenges and successes they have experienced.   During this three day session, they form partnerships with faculty from other programs and form ideas for collaborating to create new interprofessional education experiences.

Recognizing that time is the most important resource that faculty have, each IPE faculty scholar receives a course release in the fall to prepare for the new IPE initiative that they want to create, so faculty are not asked to do this on top of an already full schedule. Ultimately, the goal is for IPE to be infused into our curriculums, so that it is not viewed as something extra that we are asking faculty members to do.

In the first two years, 15 faculty members completed the program.  They have become the champions for IPE at EMU among their colleagues, recruiting other faculty and sharing ideas through faculty forums and social media, gaining momentum for the concept.

Some current learning opportunities have included a large IPE simulation event held at a local hospital with eight different professions, a local food justice bus tour, and several joint classroom learning events.  Students are brought together from various programs in the college.  The students not only learn with the curriculum but also learn from their interactions with each other, teaching about what they can do and learning what other professionals can contribute to patient care.

Recently, the Occupational Therapy and Orthotics and Prosthetics students of Andrea Zakrajsek and Jacob Lindquist teamed up for an event.  They shared the classroom to host a clinical speaker via webcast from Cleveland teaching best practices for team based care, followed by a patient model.  The speaker highlighted all of the care provider’s roles in patient treatment, from physicians and nurses, to device manufactures and family members.  The patient model was a double hand amputee who shared his experiences and opened himself up for questions from the class.  Students worked collaboratively in small groups to create a treatment plan that included identifying primary goals based on their role in the team and the patient’s needs, recognizing the value of working with other professionals to provide the intervention.   The feedback from the students was very positive.  Scottie, a second year Orthotics & Prosthetics student remarked that this experience is very valuable since the healthcare profession needs to be moving toward patient centered care.  Knowing what other professions can do allows them to serve patients as a whole, bringing in other team members as needed.

At EMU the momentum continues to grow, with the Dean recently presenting to the larger University community on IPE.  There are more successes than challenges, and many faculty members are newly energized. EMU educators are now being sought after to figure out ways that the college can better serve some of the local partners like school districts, and community centers. EMU’s new model of IPE is a way to get the students immersed in the community outside of campus and gives them a cemented experience within their own future professions, as well as other’s. Interprofessional education aims to make these students better prepared for the workforce challenges ahead, while providing fundamental tools for the best possible patient centered care in the future.



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