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SVSU: The School That Learns Together

Saginaw Valley State University (SVSU) is a well-known public university in Michigan, what is not well-known is their dedication to interprofessional education in the college of Health and Human Services. Interprofessional education (IPE) involves preparing health profession students to provide patient care in a collaborative team environment. The appealing premise of IPE is that once health care professionals begin to work together in a collaborative manner, patient care will improve.

It’s a simple but surprisingly rare premise: teach health students to work well with students in other programs in order to better prepare them for the future. The idea was formed when SVSU administration moved every department within Health and Human Services (HHS) into the same building upon its completed construction in 2010. Co-location led to faculty members from different departments communicating more easily with each other. The faculty recognized the benefits that could result from working together more intentionally and began to discuss educating students on interprofessional collaboration.

SVSU’s idea to start teaching IPE reached its tipping point during a trip to China in 2012. Several faculty members and an administrator traveled to Guangzhou, China in order to revise their affiliation agreement with Jinan University. The long time spent traveling as a group afforded them the opportunity to discuss the idea at length. They returned to Saginaw, MI on a mission to teach students about interprofessional collaborative practice.

With Jean Prast, an Assistant Professor of Occupational Therapy, leading the charge on IPE, the school worked quickly to develop programs to support interprofessional collaboration. Over the last 3 years the interprofessional programs have evolved so rapidly and so extensively that the Education to Practice team did not have the space to list all of them in this article. There are around 3,000 students in the college of Health and Human Services, which includes Health Sciences, Nursing, Social Work, Kinesiology, and Occupational Therapy. Of those students, a large majority of them choose to take advantage of the available interprofessional activities over the course of their education.

As we walked through the Health and Human Services building, we noticed full display cases with pictures from interprofessional study abroad trips to China, Zambia and New Zealand. We saw the rooms where simulations, disaster training and the interprofessional symposium are held with students from all programs within the college of Health and Human Services. A group of HHS students walked past while working together for Camp Cardinal Kidz, a free summer day-camp for grade K-5 children who have been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. Their facility was filled with new technology and specialized rooms, available for all programs to share as needed.

The administration leads by example, holding IPE Thursdays for staff and faculty in the college of Health & Human Services to discuss, plan and share ideas. Faculty members are also involved in various professional leadership development conferences such as the Northern Michigan IPE conference, held by the Michigan Health Council, and the National IPEC conference held in Washington, DC. Recently, all departments in the college worked together to develop case scenarios for a LGBTQ educational video taping.

Saginaw Valley IPE activities are widely sought after and enjoyed by students and faculty alike. A recent graduate survey for Occupational Therapy students indicated that Interprofessional Education is a key component in their program and students felt it was beneficial to prepare them as they entered the workforce. However, faculty often faces challenges in scheduling the IPE experiences, as coordination across programs tends to require extra time and energy on behalf of the faculty. Luckily for the students, there are plenty of staff members who dedicate themselves to planning these experiences.

“You have to have the passion to want to do it,” said Prast “sit at a table and plan it together.” Prast combats time constraints with teamwork and what can only be described as an open environment. Administration at Saginaw Valley State University supports the passions of its teachers and students, making it easy for everyone to communicate and collaborate on new ideas. As education in Michigan moves towards collaboration, we hope to see practices nurturing those skills in order to improve quality of care.

If you have a story to share about interprofessional collaboration, contact Stacie Longwell Hill at [email protected]

Education to Practice is a service of the Michigan Health Council

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