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Published in Alumni Publications on June 01, 2012
Senior nursing students and second-year medical students discuss a simulated patient’s case with Dr. Jimmy Stewart, right, during a joint simulation-training session at the School of Nursing.
Senior nursing students and second-year medical students discuss a simulated patient’s case with Dr. Jimmy Stewart, right, during a joint simulation-training session at the School of Nursing.

Future nurses, doctors practice teamwork skills

It begins with a phone call. A nursing student sees a patient with a violent cough, and she delivers her assessment to a second-year medical student over the phone, weighing different treatment options.

After that, the M2 and the nursing student visit the bedside together, and the patient witnesses an accurate, efficient exchange of information and a teamwork approach to treating his illness.

At least, that’s the idea. But on this day, the patient is a simulation manikin, and it’s the first time the nursing and medical students have come into contact with each other in a clinical setting.

Last fall marked the launch of interprofessional education sessions between the Schools of Medicine and Nursing, the result of a concerted effort between Dr. Jimmy Stewart, associate professor of medicine and pediatrics, and Dr. Jan Cooper, associate professor of nursing and director of the Clinical Simulation Center.

“Dr. Stewart and I believed this would be an educational opportunity that would benefit not only our students but have a positive impact on patient care and patient-care outcomes,” Cooper said.

“Professional communication and effective teamwork skills require opportunities to practice and develop. We shouldn’t expect professions to automatically be able to work together when they’ve been trained and educated as individual practitioners rather than members of interprofessional teams.”

In a series of sessions, senior nursing students and second-year medical students will meet in a variety of simulation scenarios using the SBAR format — situation, background, assessment and recommendation. The goal is to begin building a foundation now for more productive relationships once the two groups of health-care providers are in the work force.

In a special session last fall in the School of Nursing’s simulation lab, nursing students practiced interacting with medical students about patient symptoms over the phone and then in person at the manikin’s bedside. For the M2s, who have not yet had patient experiences, it amounts to being thrown into the deep end and having to practice face-to-face questioning and on-the-spot treatment planning.

“We want them to be able to communicate efficiently and effectively,” Stewart said. “A lot of people assume because you can correctly diagnose a patient that you can effectively communicate that diagnosis to the patient or nurse. So we are emphasizing communication with nurses and patients and trying to find a way to standardize that.”

“We’ve been attempting to do this for two or three years, but this school year is the first to actually implement it,” said Mary Ellen Stewart, clinical simulation instructor and wife of Jimmy Stewart. “Often, they’ve never spoken with a physician over the phone because during their clinical training, nurse preceptors have to place those calls. This allows them to get that initial intimidation out of the way before they graduate.”

On the other hand, she said, the nursing students might seem to have an advantage because they have worked with real patients by this point.
“But they’re both on level ground when it comes to communicating with each other,” she said.

So far, students in both disciplines seem to be enjoying the face time with each other.

“It’s very important because we’re going to be working with these nursing students when we graduate,” said medical student Colette Jackson, whose mother is a nurse.

“They’re our biggest allies when we get into the clinical setting.” agreed nursing student Laurie Defoe. “We need to be working together. It’s a good experience.”