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NMSU works to transform health care education

With a simple question "what do you do for fun?" doctors, nurses and psychologists are learning from each other. It's part of a new training program in geriatric health at New Mexico State University.


Doctors, nurses and psychologists take part in a new training program in geriatric health at New Mexico State University.
Doctors, nurses and psychologists are learning from each other as part of a new training program in geriatric health at New Mexico State University. (Submitted photo)

When counseling and educational psychology graduate student Ralph Crabbe posed the question during an evaluation, it gave his colleagues from other health disciplines new insight into their patient.

"We have always thought you should ask people that are depressed if they are sad, but when you say something open-ended like 'what do you do for fun,' how they answer takes you down so many different paths," said Sarah Gude, a first-year medical resident student. "If they don't have an answer for that, it tells you a lot. If they have a lot of answers for it, that tells you a lot, and that develops a relationship."

A collaborative effort to teach medical residents, nursing graduate students studying to be nurse practitioners, psychology graduate students and pharmacy graduate students together through interprofessional education was the goal of the first-ever Summer Geriatric Interprofessional Clinical Immersion held at New Mexico State University.

The NMSU School of Nursing in the College of Health and Social Services received a grant from the Health Resources and Services Administration to offer the Training to Care for Aging Populations on the Border program. The purpose of the program is to increase capacity for geriatric education in Southern New Mexico. Nineteen students participated in the weeklong program, July 15-19.

"Often patients in need of care are unable to keep multiple appointments with different care providers due to transportation barriers or the necessity of traveling long distances with juggling other priorities. Care systems must address all their needs during that one visit," said Wanda Borges, program director and associate professor.

The immersion program was assisted by Eve Adams from the Department of Counseling and Educational Psychology in the NMSU College of Education and John Andazola from the Southern New Mexico Family Medicine Residency Program, who had previously implemented integrated care at a primary care clinic.

During the program, students were split into five teams of three consisting of a nursing student, medical resident and psychology student and one team of four to include a pharmacy student. During the week, the teams conducted exercises such as Objective Structured Clinical Evaluation, which used actors to portray standardized patients. They performed home visits with elderly patients and utilized mobile tele-health equipment to communicate with NMSU faculty. The student teams also learned the importance of tai chi in helping senior patients keep function and balance, and participated in a tai chi class.

"Our goal was to develop this interprofessional collaborative care team, and I think every one of the teams successfully did that," Borges said.

"One of the things I've learned by working in a team is to listen to the question that's being asked and see if there is anything you can add to the question," Crabbe said. "Sarah initiated doing more gardening with a patient who is concerned with mobility and restrictions. Sarah pointed out that she didn't have to do regular gardening, but she could do it in pots on the table and that would be more accessible to her."

Additionally, the student teams attended rounds at Memorial Medical Center with residents of the Southern New Mexico Family Medicine Residency Program.

"It's important to know your field and be good in what you are doing," Gude said. "But once you are there, it is so much more fun to talk to other people and hear other perspectives and expand your horizons rather than just staying in your little bubble."

With the success of the program, Borges said the ultimate goal for the College of Health and Social Services is to include the immersion program into the curriculum for an interprofessional course that allows students to learn from integrated teams throughout a semester. The current plan is to offer the course in fall 2014. For more information about the program, contact Kristynia Robinson at krisr@nmsu.edu or 575-646-5916.