The Duke Health Center for Interprofessional Education and Care (IPEC) staff had been together not even three months when COVID-19 arrived. Since March, the staff has not only pressed on to complete their strategic planning but also quickly noticed that the pandemic was a unique opportunity to assess interprofessional education within Duke Health.
The IPEC Center was formed through a collaboration between Duke Health and the Duke University Schools of Nursing and Medicine to provide interprofessional educational opportunities for students so that they can learn how to counteract the historical siloseds model of health care and, instead, work with their peers across different professions in order to deliver more efficient, team-based patient care.
Mitchell T. Heflin, MD, MHS, professor, Department of Medicine, began his role IPEC Center director on July 1, 2019. In September, the Center’s four assistant directors were named: Nicholas Hudak, MSEd, MPA, PA-C, associate professor, Department of Family Medicine and Community Health, Physician Assistant Program; Amy M. Pastva, PT, MA, PhD, CHSE, associate professor, Department of Orthopedic Surgery and Division of Physical Therapy; Margie Molloy, DNP, RN, CNE, CHSE, associate professor, School of Nursing; and Erin Leiman, MD, assistant professor, Department of Surgery, Division of Emergency Medicine. The assistant directors began their work together in January.
Cindy Luddy completes the staff as the Center’s administrative assistant.
“The Center was really in its infancy, so the pandemic came at a critical time for us,” Heflin said. “Initially, we could have construed this situation as devastating for the development of the Center. We were at a point in our strategic planning where we were undertaking a comprehensive review of the different programs. We decided to go ahead with that process and actually incorporated COVID. We stopped to think about both the potential risks presented by this change and also the opportunities that were presented.”
The team outlined its strategic plan and discussed its SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) analysis during a Teaching Conversation Zoom presentation on July 14.
“For 2020, we envisioned IPE in the classrooms, service learning and clinical and co-curricular settings,” Pastva said. “True to its framework, the SWOT analysis did give us the ability to assess our organization’s current structure. We also had to consider how COVID would impact potential future learning experiences while not knowing how long the pandemic would be affecting everything.”
A profound challenge that faculty and staff across Duke faced when COVID started was having to figure out how to adapt in-person learning to a mainly virtual, distance-based format.
“We found that we need to be drafting plans for enduring remote learning options that align with accreditation standards’ goals and patient care norms while also looking at ways that we can share resources to bridge these ongoing, programmatic institutional and patient care divides and to finally invest in educator development so that our personnel and our workforce are equipped with the skill sets to advance student learning across in person, when that returns, as well as remote environments,” Leiman said.
An advantage of having to rely on technology, namely video conferencing software, as a communication tool over the last few months is that any scheduling or location barriers that were typical of in-person meetings and events were mostly eliminated.
“Things that are ultimately prohibitive barriers for interprofessional education are the schedules and physical locations for large classes or trying to connect people in different locations,” Heflin said. “With having to learn technology like Zoom, we have a greater ability to pull people together from different professions.”
Hudak put this tenet into practice by collaborating with colleagues to establish virtual events for first- and second-year PA classes which involved interprofessional panels discussing clinical cases and principles of collaborative practice.
The IPEC staff has been also involved with the School of Medicine’s Hotspotting Initiative through which first-year medical students have been serving underserved patients and patients with high needs through such methods as reassurance calls and care package deliveries.
In addition, the staff has been developing IPEC sessions for various platforms and plans to start a student advisory committee. They are also working on several upcoming events, including Clinical Immersion Training for new medical students and an IPE case review with new PA students.
“It is necessary to question the status quo right now,” Leiman said. “Just because something has always been done a certain way does not mean it is what we should be or how we should be doing it. We need to question what we are doing and see what we can do to improve and to explore innovation.”
For more information on the IPEC, visit its website.