One of the many strengths of Durham Pharmacy School is it’s integrated learning. The most recent of our interprofesional education (IPE) sessions saw pharmacy students learning alongside medical students about the importance of multidisciplinary teams in healthcare.
The session was set up in groups, each containing pharmacy and medical students. In a boardgame-style, we were given a case study and guided around care of the patient with question cards and patient circumstances to discuss. It was up to us as a multidisciplinary team to suggest the professionals who may be involved in the care of the patient. This included those involved in immediate action (e.g. would the patient need a paramedic? Could they go to a drop-in centre?), admission to hospital and discharge (e.g. community care). Lecturers from the pharmacy and medical school came discussed our suggestions with us and offered insight, and at the end of the session there was an opportunity for feedback between groups.
Discussing multidisciplinary teams with medical students was refreshing. Our level of knowledge on the subject was more or less equal and therefore there was no requirement for the assertion of subject specific points. Additionally, we were able to contribute knowledge to each other about our roles within healthcare and in doing so learnt together about responsibilities with regard to patient care. One of the main points that stood out for me during the session was the misunderstanding of pharmacy’s role, particularly with regard to a hospital setting. It appeared that the image of pharmacy was based firmly in community, but little was understood about the role of a pharmacist on the ward and subsequent interactions with patients in this setting. This precise point highlighted to me the importance of IPE in our degree.
The benefits of IPE therefore are clear, a better understanding of roles and responsibilities at this early stage leads to efficient communication and referrals throughout our career, and ultimately better patient care. It can also help to break down some of the boundaries between the pharmaceutical and medical profession, which may in the future help to promote pharmacy in the wider medical field. The question really is, if we don’t understand and appreciate each others roles now, how can we work to maximum efficiency once we are registered? The answer is ‘we can’t’, but IPE is providing the opportunity to move past this question and allow us as two professions to work more closely together in the future.