Teaching Interprofessionalism While Improving the Health of Homeless
By Ginger Hall Carnes
Nursing students are working interprofessionally with other health care profession students at UT Health San Antonio as part of a unique research project that encourages them to work as a cohesive team.
The RESPECT (Realizing Enhanced Student Inter-Professional Education through Clinical Teamwork) Project creates a team from four disciplines—nursing, medical, dental and dental hygiene—to work together at a San Antonio transitional living center. Lark Ford, Ph.D., RN, assistant professor/clinical of nursing, leads the School of Nursing’s participation in the project. It began in 2009 as the doctoral dissertation of Taline “Talley” Dadian Infante, Ed.D., RDH, then chair of the Division of Dental Hygiene. Dr. Infante, a beloved and nationally recognized dental hygiene educator, died in 2013.
The RESPECT project is carried out at a medical clinic opened in 2005 by the Joe R. and Teresa Lozano Long School of Medicine at the SAMMinistries’ Transitional Living and Learning Center, where families with children work to overcome homelessness.
“We are pulling professionals together to see how we can provide wellness plans for the families while they’re going through their transition period,” explained Dr. Ford. “Our goal was getting the students engaged.”
And that has happened, as evidenced by nursing students who participated in 2017. While clinical rotations are primarily based in hospitals, the RESPECT project gave students an opportunity to work in a community setting.
Nadine Lagangan, B.S.N. Class of 2017, RN, an oncology nurse at University Hospital, enjoyed learning from the team.
“Each discipline had something different to offer, and it was great seeing how our care meshed together to help our patient. As a new graduate, I don’t know everything, but I do know my resources and who to go to for help,” she said.
Bianca Ortiz, B.S.N. Class of 2017, RN, shared: “Working with other students helped to establish the foundation for being able to work as part of an interprofessional team. Currently, I work on an inpatient rehab floor, and am part of a team of occupational, physical and speech therapists that gives patients the best care possible.”
Students are recruited in the fall to be part of the project the following spring. They work in teams of four and go to the center on five Saturdays from January through March. The interprofessional element was important for the welfare of the patient and for the education and efficiency of the medical professionals.
“The goal was for each of them to learn what the other professionals do,” she explained. “The world thinks doctors, nurses and other professionals have this common relationship, this bond, because they work together. Many times they don’t learn how to work together until after they graduate.” Students learn to work as interprofessionals while learning their discipline and providing quality care, she said. Nursing students participate as part of their clinical immersion course during their last semester.
In addition to benefiting the students, the homeless families found it helpful, Dr. Ford said. “Their health care occurred in one place. When we did a wellness plan, it gave them a game plan so they knew what things they need to be aware of, not only for themselves but for their children,” she said. The students want the families to be healthy when they transition out of the center. “If they have to stop working because they’re sick, then they lose their jobs. They can’t pay their rent or mortgage, and then they’re right back to being homeless,” Dr. Ford said.