Health Sciences Students Learn From One Another in Simulations

Published 04.21.2016

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Because a patient experiencing a health emergency will likely be cared for by many health care professionals with differing specialties, Pennsylvania College of Technology has taken an active approach to ensure that students understand the roles and collaboration necessary on a health care team.

The college’s School of Health Sciences took part in two recent events that involved more than 400 students in mock patient cases on its campus.

During a three-day set of emergency simulations that involved 320 Penn College students, Timothy F. Schwartzer (in hat), an emergency medical services student from Bensalem, explains to students in other health sciences majors how paramedics would begin treatment for a patient – played by a volunteer actor – who had fallen from a second-floor balcony.On April 6, the college was one of six locations for the Northeastern/Central Pennsylvania Interprofessional Education Coalition’s Collaborative Care Summit. At the Penn College site, 22 facilitators led roundtable discussions of a medical case among students from several colleges and universities who are pursuing studies in a wide range of health disciplines.

More than 100 students – representing Penn College, Lock Haven University, Wilkes University, The Commonwealth Medical College and Marywood University – participated, learning from one another how each discipline contributes to a patient’s care.

Simultaneous events were held at Marywood University, The Commonwealth Medical College, The University of Scranton, Kings College and Misericordia University.

The following week, the Penn College School of Health Sciences got hands-on with an event that involved 320 students in 42 simulated emergencies across campus.

Occupational therapy assistant students Lindsey H. Bradshaw and Nichole A. Knott, both of Williamsport, demonstrate to other students how they would teach a person who has lost use of an arm how to complete daily tasks.The three-day “Interdisciplinary Professional Experience” involved students from eight of Penn College’s academic programs: dental hygiene, emergency medical services/paramedic, health information technology, medical imaging, nursing, occupational therapy assistant, physician assistant and surgical technology.

In some cases, patients – who were played by volunteer actors – were found to have fallen from second-story balconies, while in others, they experienced exacerbated COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) during an outpatient rehabilitation session. Some students were called to “long-term care facilities,” where patients complained of pain of unknown origin, while others reported to the college’s Dental Hygiene Clinic for a patient experiencing angina in the dental chair. Additional simulations varied widely.

Radiography students answer classmates’ questions regarding their work.As the “patients” moved through their health care experiences – from the scene to the emergency room to X-ray or the operating room – students in each discipline communicated with the patients and explained to other students their required protocols and the information they need from – and share with – others on a patient’s health care team.

Improving the ability of health care professionals to work together toward excellent patient outcomes has been recognized by the Institute of Medicine, the World Health Organization, the National Academies of Practice and the American Public Health Association.

The objective is to benefit patients.

“The goal of interprofessional learning is to prepare all health professions students for deliberatively working together, with the common goal of building a safer and better patient-centered and community health care system,” explained Sharon K. Waters, associate dean of health sciences at Penn College and a member of the Northeastern/Central Pennsylvania Interprofessional Education Coalition’s leadership team.

In the “emergency room,” a patient played by Abigail J. Miller, of Sunbury, receives treatment from Monirh S. Larkpor, a nursing student from Darby, and David J. Covert, a physician assistant student from Williamsport. Also attending her is her “daughter,” played by nursing student Lauryn T. Howe, of York Springs.Waters facilitates the coalition’s annual Collaborative Care Summit at Penn College and encouraged the School of Health Sciences’ academic programs to create an in-house event to benefit even more students. The result was the Interdisciplinary Professional Experience.

“A holistic team approach to health care can lead to healthier patients who have incurred less time and expense than patients who are not cared for with a team approach,” said Tushanna M. Habalar, instructor of nursing, who leads the Interdisciplinary Professional Experience.

To learn more about academic programs offered by Penn College’s School of Health Sciences, call 570-327-4519.

For more about Penn College, a national leader in applied technology education and workforce development, email the Admissions Office or call toll-free 800-367-9222.