Nearly 100 Troy University social work and nursing students recently participated in a joint medical Interprofessional Simulation Day alongside other healthcare students from Wallace Community College-Dothan and the Alabama College of Osteopathic Medicine in Dothan.
WCCD hosted the event in its Health Sciences Simulation Center on Friday, Feb. 10.
During the day-long event, students from each institution worked together to care for a standardized patient with the goal of gaining a better understanding of the roles and responsibilities each profession has in patient care. Because the program is designed to emphasize the value of team-based healthcare, students were placed in interprofessional groups to encourage collaborative teamwork and problem-solving. Each simulation featured a patient, a family member, a social worker, a nurse and a doctor.
“A lot of our social work students have never worked in a healthcare setting, so it really gives them good hands-on experience working with other disciplines to get that team approach,” said Rachel Walker, a lecturer in TROY’s social work department and one of the event’s organizers. “The other added benefit is they are able to interact with the patient and the person acting as the caregiver, so they get hands-on experience interviewing individuals and their families to obtain the information they need to provide the necessary services. It’s a really good experience all around.”
Emalie Albert, a senior nursing student from Gadsden, Ala., said she appreciated being able to see the other side of healthcare and to have the experience of reporting directly to a doctor.
“It was really cool to get to see what the social workers do and how the med students work and how we all work together to provide care,” she said. “It’s been a great experience. We were able to go in and work with a patient and were actually able to give a real-life report. A lot of times in clinicals we don’t get to see doctors and speak with them, so it was really beneficial to be able to get those nerves out. We learn in class how to communicate with our patient and advocate for them, but we really got to put that into action during the simulation.”
The groups first participated in a team-building exercise followed by a case study segment where each team member was assigned specific roles. At the end of each simulation, groups gathered for a debriefing period to discuss where improvements needed to be made and the things that went well.
Abriyah Lampley, a senior social work student from Phenix City, Ala., said the experience made her feel more comfortable for a future in healthcare social work.
“I always wanted to work in a hospital setting, but I didn’t really know how social workers operate in a hospital,” she said. “This really opened my eyes, and I feel like it was a great experience. I was nervous, but I overcame it and really learned a lot.”
Not only do the simulation exercises offer the chance for hands-on experiences, it gives students the opportunity to try different approaches without the fear of negatively impacting a patient. With around 300 students participating in the simulations—including over 50 nursing and nearly 40 social work students from TROY—students have several opportunities to practice.
“They go in very nervous because most of them have never done anything like this before, so they have nothing to compare it to. There’s definitely a learning curve, and mistakes are bound to happen,” Walker said. “But they come out breathing a lot easier and realize it wasn’t as intimidating as they made it out to be, which is a good thing because our students have to do this three or four times. Each time they get more comfortable and are able to apply what they learned from the last rotation. It helps our students learn, which in turn allows them to better care for their real-life patients down the road.”
Interprofessional Simulation Day is part of an ongoing series of collaborative events between WCCD, ACOM and TROY. The simulation has been an annual event for over four years, breaking for COVID in 2020.
“We have wonderful relationships with ACOM and Wallace, and it’s a great opportunity for all the entities within our community to come together to provide this experience,” Walker said. “It’s not just benefiting one college, it’s benefitting all of our students as a whole and will definitely benefit our community moving forward.”