Interprofessional education is part of the ethos at the Murphy Deming College of Health Sciences, and a series of clinical seminar courses is helping students across disciplines work together and get a glimpse of real-world collaboration.

IPE course“The three-course sequence focuses on interprofessional education and is one of the hallmarks of what we are doing here,” said Lisa Shoaf, director of the physical therapy program. “It’s not a traditional lecture course. They are learning about other health professions and working together as a team — it’s centered around working through a patient case and learning to effectively manage a case across disciplines.”

Last spring, students in the occupational therapy and physical therapy programs studied a patient case on paper only, while this semester, Shoaf said, the team opted to “take it live,” bringing in an actor to portray the role of a patient.

The actor, Sarah Wykowski, is a student in Mary Baldwin’s Shakespeare and Performance (S&P) master of letters program, bridging the Fishersville and Staunton campuses. Wykowski first met with Shoaf and OT Director Ben Herz to review the case study they had developed. Afterward, she met with the class to act the part — of a young working mother with symptoms consistent with fibromyalgia — answering health and lifestyle questions from students.

“She was just spot on,” Herz said. “It’s a great partnership [with the S&P program]. We will absolutely reach back into that pool again.”

Armed with the “patient’s” case history; faculty-provided data, such as range-of-motion measurements; and information students received in their face-to-face meeting, the students — working in teams — shared notes and discussed a possible diagnosis. The teams also set up patient goals and treatment plans. It was only after they submitted their report that they learned Wykowski was an actor.

The students will complete the seminar series in the spring with more case studies, forging a new path with the interprofessional education seminar series.

“I think we’re the only ones doing something like this. There is no model for it,” said Shoaf, adding that representatives from both OT and PT programs are presenting the interprofessional seminar model at national meetings of their respective organizations. “We’re being very intentional about sharing what we’re doing.”