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Dental student works with simulation mannequin during IPE exercise

Dental and physician assistant students came together July 28 for an interprofessional education exercise on the Sacramento Campus

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Interprofessional education adds depth to Pacific health care programs

Pacific’s health care programs are crossing campus boundaries to enhance the student experience
Aug 7, 2017

What should a dentist do if a patient has a life-threatening allergic reaction? What should a physician assistant consider in a patient presenting with bleeding gums? Why is an eye exam so important?

These are just some of the questions Pacific students considered on a recent Interprofessional Education exercise at the Sacramento Campus.

On Friday, July 28, the entire cohort of second-year dental students from Pacific's Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry traveled from San Francisco to the Sacramento Campus to collaborate with the students in the Physician Assistant (PA) Program on a full day of interprofessional education (IPE). The students spent time learning about each other's profession and how they might collaborate together in the future. They worked together on diagnosis and treatment planning for a case-based scenario where the patient's symptoms include oral health issues. PA students also taught dental students how to conduct eye and ear exams, and dental students worked through a cardiac arrest scenario using the PA program's simulation mannequins.  

PA and dental students interprofessional education
Dental and PA students interprofessional education
Dental and PA students Interprofessional Education

"This event was one of the highlights of our semester thus far," said Alison Dutton, PA Class 2019 co-president. "Not only were we able to interact and get to know fellow health profession students, but the information shared was invaluable. This event was just one stepping stone toward working together in the future to provide excellent care for our patients."

Earlier in the month, dental faculty spent a faculty development day at the Sacramento Campus where they interacted with faculty from the PA Program and the McGeorge School of Law.  

This collaborative work is all part of a robust IPE program being developed by Pacific's new PA Program, entering its third semester this fall. Academic Director Tracey DelNero is leveraging Pacific's highly regarded health sciences programs to enhance the educational experience for PA students and their collaborators.  

"Working with professionals from other medical fields provides each with a more holistic understanding of health care," DelNero said. "The knowledge of how medical disciplines can work together to improve patient health will positively impact patient care when these students become practicing medical professionals."  

As health care professionals are increasingly expected to take an interdisciplinary team approach to patient care, IPE is becoming a must-have for health care programs in the 21st century, and has begun to be implemented as a requirement for accreditation in many programs. Interprofessional education and practice have been shown to lead to increased safety and better quality of care. 

Many institutions have implemented some aspect of this type of training using seminars, symposia or one-day workshops or special events, but Pacific has moved the process a giant leap forward by pairing students in interdisciplinary cohorts across a semester or full year, and in some cases for the length of their program.  

The PA program has developed interdisciplinary programs with doctor of pharmacy and physical therapy students in the Stockton-based Thomas J. Long School of Pharmacy and Health Sciences. Cohorts of doctor of pharmacy and PA students are involved in several IPE events each semester and will participate in an IPE curriculum that spans the entire 27 months of the PA program. Physical Therapy and PA students take a pathophysiology course together that is required by both programs and are paired in interdisciplinary teams to work on projects and assignments. Students use Canvas, the university's web-based learning management system, to communicate outside the classroom on projects and assignments, or even just to bounce-off ideas and suggestions. 

Pacific schools of pharmacy and dentistry have also paired students in blended learning case-based modules in pharmacology and oral pathology. Student feedback for these programs has been very positive. Professors are discovering that the relationships students develop foster collaboration that continues long after the course has ended.  

"The Dugoni School has implemented cross-institutional IPE opportunities in several ways in recent years," said Cindy Lyon, associate dean for oral health care education at Dugoni. "We are working with UC San Francisco's family practice residents with a focus on care of patients with special needs, and with University of San Francisco nursing students relating to care of pediatrics patients." The school is developing a new program with Stanford University to rotate dental students through clinics there for learning experiences in oncology, orofacial pain, sleep medicine, emergency room care and surgery, Lyon says.  

Pacific's health care programs in dentistry, pharmacy, physical therapy, audiology and speech-language pathology, and now physician assistant studies, are preparing our professional students to work in an ever-evolving and increasingly complex health care environment. Leveraging our programs and partners across northern California, Pacific is expanding opportunities for a broader and deeper education to improve health care in the 21st century and beyond.