Last summer, the MGH Institute of Health Professions launched the new Center for Interprofessional Education and Practice, naming Midge Hobbs, Assistant Professor in the Occupational Therapy program, and Rachel Pittmann, Assistant Professor of Communication Sciences and Disorders, Assistant Deans of the Center. In December, Regina Doherty was appointed Dean of Interprofessional Education and Practice. 

By bringing together the various entities focused on interprofessionalism, the Center’s goal is to solidify the Institute as a leader in this area, with Hobbs and Pittmann at the forefront. In this month’s edition of “The IHP Interview,” we spoke with the two assistant deans for a six-month check-in. The conversation below has been edited for brevity and clarity.

Let’s start from the beginning. How did the idea for the Center come about? 

We wanted to create more of an identity and a synergy between the things we were already doing, to connect the dots and make the interprofessional education and practice we offer more cohesive. We’ve built this incredible program focused on those ideals, but we wanted to take the next steps: How could we bring it all together? How could we expand on what we’ve done? How could we better measure what we’ve done and really share our work? 

What does this cohesiveness bring to the IHP community? 

The essence of interprofessional collaborative practice is that people understand each other's roles and are working in unity. They're doing things together even though they have distinct roles and responsibilities in practice. They're working together for the benefit of the client, the patient. That's what we needed to do at the Institute. We have a lot of a lot of people all over who are offering this interprofessional education for students and giving them opportunities to practice, but we really needed to knit those threads together. We needed to create an integrated tapestry so that we all know what others are doing and can better support each other. 

Now that we’ve created the Center, we’re much closer to reaching those goals. 

Pittmann: Creating this identity has allowed us to also look at ourselves in a different way. We have now been able to take a step back and ask ourselves, “Who are we?,” “Who do we want to be?,” and  “How do we want to get there?” Coming together like this has given us an opportunity to be introspective in a way that we hadn't been before.

It’s also allowed us to offer a better experience to our staff and faculty in the Center by improving the way they work, and the way we work as a team. Now that we are more aware of each other and are more cohesive in the work we’re doing, it’s a smoother process for us all to get things done and be successful.

How has that self-reflection changed the way the Center operates? 

We’re much more intentional as we move forward in the way we do things. For example, we’ve done a lot to align interprofessional education and practice with our general principles of anti-oppression as set out by the Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (JEDI) office at the Institute. Simultaneously, the core competencies from the Interprofessional Education Collaborative – which are used nationally as the gold standard – were being redefined to include more inclusive language and terminology. We're already making those changes, so we were a step ahead.

It also held up a mirror to what we were doing and allowed us to assess whether what we’ve been doing aligns or doesn’t align with what’s happening on a larger scale nationally.  

You mentioned one of the goals is to do a better job at measuring the work you’re doing. What does that look like?

What we’re trying to do is think about the key players we’re serving – our students, our community, our faculty, and our staff – and assessing how we’re doing. 

Are we adequately teaching students to help them develop the interprofessional core competencies necessary to be excellent members of a healthcare team? Are we tracking that learning over time? How satisfied are students in their learning process, both in simulation and in practice? What are the outcomes of the pro bono care clients receive at the Sanders IMPACT Practice Center? How are we impacting the faculty? The broader community? What do the other programs need to know about what we're doing? All told, we are being more intentional and increasing our focus on quality improvement.

Hobbs: There are so many layers in our work that have far-reaching impacts and we're constantly tweaking the work that we do based on outcomes and feedback. With that, we’re constantly adding new trainings, new courses, new ways to develop our students’ skills, whether that’s in practice or in the classroom. There are multiple layers to what we do, and that’s why it's so important that we measure the impacts of what we do so we can consistently adapt. 

How will the Center differentiate the IHP from other schools that are also weaving interprofessionalism into their curriculum? 

Because we focus on interprofessionalism so heavily at the IHP, and it’s woven into everything we do, we want to share this work and these findings with others in the field. Bringing us all under one roof in the Center allows us to do that, and in turn, really establishes ourselves as a unit in the healthcare higher education community. 

Why are you both so passionate about interprofessional education and practice? How do you feel it impacts students and clinicians? 

We know from the research that when there is collaboration between healthcare providers, the patients benefit because there is greater continuity of care and greater efficiency. On top of that, patients hate having to go through the same processes multiple times or to duplicate the same information. However, I heard this past year that post-COVID, we need to be even more intentional about interprofessional collaborative practice, because healthcare is struggling and humans are struggling. Socially, how people talk to each other and connect to each other – and how clinicians interact with their patients, too – is changing.  Because of that, working together as a team has become even more important. And that’s what we’re training our students to do through this interprofessional education and practice model. 

We know that the pressures of performance and productivity are huge these days. Everyone wants to get more done, get it done faster, and get on to that next thing. But remembering to just listen, be respectful of others, and embracing that shared accountability is huge. 

What are your goals for the Center as it gets off the ground?  

Across all areas, we’d like to continue and improve that introspective questioning of what we want to be, who we want to be, what we want to assess, and where we want to go with our work. Our data collection and analysis processes, as well as our quality improvement processes, fall into this as well. 

There will also be continued work to identify philanthropic partners to support the mission of our pro bono work at the IMPACT Practice Center and ensure alignment between our simulation-based learning conducted on campus with the new Center of Excellence in Healthcare Simulation Research.

Hobbs: For me, the biggest goal is to is to continue collaborating with other offices at the IHP to ensure we are aligned across the board with what the Institute is doing, particularly with the JEDI office. This way, we can ensure that we’re continuously adapting our educational opportunities to align with the IHP’s mission of anti-oppression and inclusion.

We do a lot of brave things, but we don't always get it right – we’re human. With that, we're constantly developing and changing. But we are ahead of the curve on this work, and we will continue to share what we learn. 

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