Across the Foundation’s priority areas, our grantees are working to improve the health of the public through innovative research and programs. The Foundation awards up to 40 grants on a rotating schedule each year.
Integrating Transdisciplinary Education at Cornell Hunter (ITEACH)
This collaboration between Weill Cornell College of Medicine and Hunter College (Nursing, Public Health and Social Work) will design, demonstrate and institutionalize a program of integrated, interprofessional educational experiences which will provide nursing, public health, social work, and medical students with new competencies in collaborative teamwork that are necessary to provide high quality health care, especially to underserved patient populations in community and other practice based settings.
Education in the health professions has traditionally been organized in a vertical manner, or organizational silos, which has promoted highly specialized knowledge within each discipline and competition for prestige and resources, rather than collaboration (D’Aoust, Martina, Wall, Ward, 2009). No single discipline or health care professional can solely meet the complicated needs of patients today; yet professional schools continue to operate in silos. There is a growing awareness that traditional models of health professions’ education do not adequately prepare individuals to work in highly complex organizations (IOM, 2003; National League for Nursing, 2009). To promote in their students an understanding of the value and contribution of different professional identities and to enhance collaborative behavior, they will use Gittel’s theory of relational coordination as the organizing framework for curriculum development. Relational coordination is defined as “a mutually reinforcing process of interaction between communication and relationships carried out for the purpose of task integration.” This theory differs from other models of organizational coordination in that it emphasizes the extent to which the communication among team members is frequent, timely, accurate, and focused on problem solving. Because communication does not occur in a vacuum, effective communication among team members is based on mutual respect, shared knowledge and shared goals. (Gittel 2002)
Projects such as Transforming Care at the Bedside (TCAB), a national program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Institute for Health Care Improvement, show that engaging leaders at all levels improves quality and safety of patient care and improves effectiveness of the entire care team. Principles of patient centered care adapted from these models and others provide a unique perspective for curricular design.
Their aim is to create an innovative transdisciplinary experiential educational program in simulated and community based settings that: provides regularly scheduled service-learning activities; exposes students from each of the participating health professions to experiential learning in high quality health care team collaboration; and identifies opportunities to develop multi-level interventions that can address environmental influences on patient health and the health of communities. The transdisciplinary program will allow for educational experiences and community-based practice exposure to an ‘ecological model’ of health that considers multiple determinants in the patient’s life that are influencing health and well-being. This ecological model for interprofessional learning will include broad social, economic, cultural, health, and environmental conditions; living and working conditions; social, family, and community networks; individual behavior; individual traits such as age, sex, race, and biological factors (IOM, 2003). Students from these health professional schools will be immersed in community-based learning environments that currently include working public health practitioners, physicians, nurses, and social workers in order to shape their professional identities and learn norms and values of behaviors in their own and in other health professions.
The content objectives of this program:
- Develop transdisciplinary coursework and skill acquisition opportunities in patient safety, quality measurement, teamwork and collaboration.
- Develop, reward and renew teaching faculty in interprofessional educational efforts by creating a faculty development program which focuses on eliminating well described barriers.
- Evaluate and create assessment tools to evaluate educational outcomes in communication and teamwork.
- Evaluate models of teamwork and patient safety, including relational coordination, Team Stepps and others from business and related fields for applicability to health professional education.
- Use innovative educational models such as high fidelity simulation and virtual reality to create unique transdisciplinary and longitudinal experiences for students which would provide skill acquisition in high quality communication and teamwork.
- Develop strategies for health promoting interventions that address individual, family, community, or broader population-based influences on health outcomes.
- Through service learning, transdisciplinary teams will interact with students in community colleges to provide information on the range of health care careers and to support student achievement by role modeling.