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Interprofessional Education (IPE)

Columbia Commons Interprofessional Education (IPE): Collaboration Across Professions

Columbia Commons IPE brings together faculty and students from all ten professional health programs/schools to learn how to support effective health care teams. The Commons is the breeding ground for interprofessional collaboration amongst students and faculty from the College of Dental Medicine, MD Program, School of Nursing, Institute of Human Nutrition, Programs in Occupational Therapy, Clinical Pastoral Education Program, Programs in Physical Therapy, Mailman School of Public Health, Program in Genetic Counseling, and School of Social Work.

Columbia Commons IPE was founded in 2016, and was preceded by a grant from the Josiah Macy, Jr. Foundation that initiated collaborative study, training, and social action among students and faculty of different disciplines. In recognition of the importance of interprofessional work, the deans of CUIMC agreed to fund the group to continue this work upon the end of the grant.

Over the course of this initiative, Columbia has diverged from the mainstream national currents in IPE. Through our involvement with IPEC and the National Center for Interprofessional Practice and Education at the University of Minnesota, we are well aware of the skills-based approaches often adopted elsewhere. Through a ten-year collaboration with colleague schools in a broad NIH-funded grant program in enhancing social science and behavioral science curricula in medical schools, we have worked closely with an IPE sub-group of health professionals at Oregon Health Sciences University, University of California at San Diego, UCLA, Indiana University, University of Texas at San Antonio, and Brown University. Many of the programs at other institutions in the U.S. emphasize joint learning of concrete interprofessional skills: learning each profession’s specific role in clinical situations, training for courtesy toward members of other professions, and check-listing approved behaviors in clinical simulations.

In contrast, the emerging philosophy and approach to IPE at Columbia is focused less on specific tasks completed by each role, and more on shared values and ways to work together to produce better health care for the patient. The initiative began with monthly gatherings of leadership and faculty from eight programs/schools to think about and discuss the silos that divided them. Through narrative methods, the group began to recognize that ultimately more aspects of their respective professions united them rather than divided them. After exploring the commonalities of care of the sick, the faculty designed and executed credit-bearing seminars for mixed groups of students from all eight disciplines. The Spring 2020 semester marks the ninth year of these campus-wide IPE Seminar courses. Knowing how critical well-functioning teams are in health care, these seminars help to develop the wherewithal to work seamlessly, effectively, and respectfully together. Our courses open up urgent questions about health, illness, and care while absorbing each of the multitude of perspectives on these topics.

The Columbia Commons IPE Steering Committee has grown to sponsor various events and projects across CUIMC’s campus for students from all disciplines. This includes an online orientation course in the fall for all new students, shared classroom sessions focused around a pressing health topic, student-organized social events, and a day-long conference for over 1,600 students on campus, called IPE Day.

Other Initiatives

For the 2017-18 academic year, the Commons sponsored the Columbia Hotspotting Initiative. Hotspotting is an innovative approach to primary care combining data-driven selection of high-utilizing patients with interprofessional delivery of personalized care. The project joined together twelve students from medicine, nursing, public health, and social work. Over six months, the students participated in the Camden Coalition’s curriculum emphasizing teamwork, leadership, and patient advocacy skills, while simultaneously helping a group of patients at Columbia’s Associates in Internal Medicine Clinic better navigate their illnesses, treatments, and the health care system.

The Commons has resulted in several other interprofessional initiatives, such as Nursing faculty teaching in a core course in the Medicine curriculum, Social Workers having appointments among the Dental faculty, Nursing faculty attending Dental rounds, and an interprofessional collaborative for the aging LGBTQ population, e-linc.

In addition, research efforts are currently underway between junior and senior faculty members of all disciplines. Most recently, Sharon Akabas, Rebekah Ruppe, Michael Devlin, Carol Kunzel, Moneek Madra, and Rita Charon submitted a Phase I CaMPR grant proposal to the Irving Institute for Clinical and Translational Research titled “Using Narrative Medicine Weight Bias Across the Health Professions: Toward Improved Health Care for Persons with Obesity.”

Columbia University Columbia Commons Interprofessional Education (IPE)