“Interprofessional Education, what’s that?” “Don’t they understand I have enough on my plate trying to learn medicine?”
These questions crossed my mind when beginning my journey through the Interprofessional Education (IPE) courses offered as part of the curriculum of my graduate studies degree. The expectations were minimal, a few online courses and a group meeting per week. Albeit a small commitment, it seemed more like an inconvenience than education. As a non-traditional student, coming in with work experience, needing the education and certifications to progress professionally, this was something I was surprised to find, needed to be taught. I assumed that this was a skill that came naturally. Everyone should possess the ability to communicate, collaborate, and care for patients with one common goal, improving patient outcomes.
As my education progressed, I found myself in my hometown for the sixth rotation of my clinical year, and this was when I was introduced to the OHSU rural campus IPE courses. The rural campus IPE project provided a purpose for the collaboration. There was a common goal, that students on rotation at the rural campus could work towards. There were varying levels of engagement available for students at different stages in their education and varying roles based on available time commitments. For me, the Klamath Falls rural campus project was something I was passionate about as its focus was to provide patients with tools to self-manage their chronic disease in my hometown. For others, I suspect the motivation came from the community interaction. We were able to collect surveys at various community events including a bull sale and a health fair. Turns out this was the first bull sale some of my collaborating students had ever attended! We dove in headfirst and never thought twice about publications or poster presentations.
An opportunity presented itself to draft an abstract for submission of the project to the Oregon Rural Practice-based Research Network convocation on May 2, 2019. In collaboration with Katie Murphy, a third-year medical student at OHSU, an abstract was composed. We sat down at a local coffee shop, after clinic, on the last day of our rotations. Instead of heading out of town for spring break, we decided to transition our role from survey collection, to summarizing the premise of this project with numerous contributors and multiple phases. The challenge was distilling the data received to date, and forecasting future analyses for collaborating students, all while capturing the essence of this massive collaborative effort. We may have authored the abstract, however we were representing everyone who contributed to this project. Once submitted and accepted we found ourselves thinking, now what? The thoughts of time allotments and obligations in addition to learning medicine came rushing back. When were we supposed to find time to create a research project poster for presentation in about a month and a half timeframe? This is when the collaboration really began.
The Klamath Falls rural campus, and its new batch of students, played an integral role in taking the raw data and creating a research poster. We only made suggestions and final edits. At the ORPRN conference, standing in front of the poster, we felt the tinge of imposter syndrome, like we were taking credit for the work of so many others. This feeling peaked as we stood on the podium accepting a first place award for the poster. As I pondered this, the point of the IPE course hit me: collaboration, communication and care. This was the point! Our part happened to be to showcase the impressive collaborative work of so many to the rural-health research community.
From the beginning of this project to where it currently stands, there have been 45 student collaborators from six different universities, as well as two full-time faculty facilitating the project and multiple community partner contributors. It has been remarkable to see this project progress from it’s budding stages of identifying a community need and formulating a plan for gathering data, to presenting the raw data and beginning steps for implementing our research. What began as an “obligation” turned out to be an extremely rewarding process that continues to mature and evolve into what we hope will be practical, implementable solutions for chronic disease management in rural communities.