Interprofessional events are diverse in both shape, color, and weight. For students, these colors can present with an unappetizing hue. The shape is frequently pre-formed, forced into a mold without room for a natural curve. The weight of a curriculum pins the participant tightly between their seat and the exit. Rather than filling a passive roll, the student deserves ownership and the right to creativity.
Convoy of Hope
On October 13th, 2018 students from IUSM WL, as well as Purdue Departments of Spanish, Nutrition Science, Pharmacy, and Kinesiology, joined strengths toward a common community service-based goal that took an organic form in shades of both ‘black and gold’ as well as ‘cream and crimson’ without the shadow of a requirement looming above. The Convoy of Hope, a national non-for-profit aimed at providing for underserved, held its biennial event in conjunction with the Tippecanoe County Health Department, offering a range of services including free groceries, help with job searches, and free haircuts.
Professional students from Indiana’s two largest universities provided point-of-care health information to hundreds of participants during a 4-hour window deployed in an assembly line-style health care journey. The concept was simple and efficient – participants received their own health information card (think: passport of sorts) that they utilized at each of the 5 numbered stations. Clearly marked sections of the card provided the participant with plainly worded explanations demonstrating what their health status might have reflected. Organizers emphasized interpretation of the screening results in order for the participants to transform the data into manageable lifestyle modifications. In addition, health care referrals to IU Health Arnett and Riggs Community Health Center were given to at-risk participants.
Integral partners provided unique expertise to the community of Greater Lafayette:
- IUSM WL: blood pressure screenings
- Purdue’s Kinesiology + IUSM: BMI, body fat, and fitness recommendations
- Purdue’s Nutrition Science: nutritional/dietary recommendations
- Purdue’s APhA/ASP: glucose and cholesterol reading
- Purdue’s CPNP: mental health screenings
- Purdue’s BoilerWoRx: info on substance abuse and drug destruction
- Purdue’s Medical Spanish: interpretation services
- Purdue’s AMSA chapter: volunteering
A brief 4-hour experience armed 360 Lafayette community members with a snapshot of their current health. For those without jobs or insurance, this experience signified the first contact with health care that participants had made in years. Not only did this outreach event provide participants with previously unknown knowledge regarding bodily health, it also served to remind them that their journey through health care can be greeted with compassion, hope, and smiling faces.
In an effort to quantify their efficacy, students analyzed the blood pressure readings and found the average of 166 readings to be 129/80. This equates to 50% of participants presenting as pre-hypertensive, 18% as Stage 1 hypertensive, and 3% as Stage 2 hypertensive.
Utility of Interprofessional Eduction
Unexpectedly, the student perspective on interprofessional education underwent a profound shift. Volunteerism and community outreach are vital foundational bricks for future physicians. However, the future of health care rests on efficiency and inter-professional management. Students are so often forced into scripted inter-professional interactions without voice, ownership, or the ability to chart their own course. Yet critical thinking, innovation, and real-time problem solving is the crux of what inter-professional clinical practice truly is. A singular event such as this – a benign community outreach opportunity – calls into question the curricular pedagogy behind inter-professional learning. Rather than re-inventing the wheel only to walk through a step-wise script, the most fruitful way of gaining real-world interprofessional clinical skills may be the easiest route of them all: participating in real-world interprofessional clinical skills.