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December 14, 2018

New course promotes breaking down silos to optimize patient care

October 21, 2014

New course promotes breaking down silos to optimize patient care

Health professions schools at U-M are taking a unique approach to educating future clinicians. The schools of Dentistry, Medicine, Nursing and Social Work, and College of Pharmacy are launching an innovative course titled Team-Based Clinical Decision Making.

The winter 2015 course is "the first of its kind at the university and may be one of the largest semester-long interprofessional education offerings in the country," says course director Gundy Sweet, clinical professor of pharmacy.

More than 300 students will work in interprofessional teams, rotating through all five schools and solving difficult patient cases.

"We are designing very complex cases that will require all team members to consider the perspectives of each profession to develop a successful care plan," explains Bruce Mueller, associate dean of academic affairs at the College of Pharmacy. Faculty also will co-teach the two-credit course in interprofessional pairs.

"For many years, we have operated in professional silos within health care, but that has changed dramatically in the last few years," says Dr. Rajesh Mangrulkar, associate dean of medical student education.

"At UMHS, we have many outstanding models of highly effective interprofessional clinical care teams. But we haven't been nearly as intentional in educating the learners how to work with other health professional students and function in those teams."

Email questions about the course to

With representatives appointed by the deans of the seven health science schools, the Steering Committee for Interprofessional Education has been charged with advancing these types of initiatives at the university.

"This course is the product of almost three years of committed effort among the health sciences schools to transform the learning environment for our students," says Dr. Carol Anne Murdoch-Kinch, associate dean for academic affairs at the School of Dentistry. "This is one of many learning activities being developed that will ensure that our graduates have the interprofessional competencies required to succeed and lead in a changing health care environment."

For now, the course is still in the pilot phase. The Doctor of Pharmacy and Doctor of Dental Surgery programs have integrated the course into their curricular requirements, while the Master of Social Work program will initially require the course for Integrated Health Scholars and Detroit Clinical Scholars. The course is also open as an elective for students in the Medical Doctor and Nurse Practitioner programs.

The goal for future years is to grow the course to include more students and perhaps more schools.

"In the future, I would love to see every NP (nurse practitioner) student involved," states Michelle Pardee, clinical assistant professor at the School of Nursing. "This is a great opportunity for students to interact across disciplines and develop the interprofessional skills necessary to be successful in healthcare."

The ultimate goal of the course, said Bradley Zebrack, associate professor of social work, is to positively influence patient care.

"Preparing the next generation of health care providers to work collaboratively across professional boundaries will contribute to enhanced patient outcomes and improvements in the quality of health care."

"I believe the future of health care is dependent on interprofessional collaboration," says third-year dental student Eric Tye, who will be among the first cohort to take this course. "This requires commitment from all professions to step outside of their individual silos, break down the barriers of misunderstanding, and learn how to work together to provide optimum patient care."


Danny van Leeuwen
on 10/22/14 at 2:32 pm

Suggest that you include patients and caregivers in the design and evaluation team for this course

MaryBeth Lewis
on 10/23/14 at 9:25 am

Correction note from Associate Professor Arslanian-Engoren at U-M School of Nursing: "The course is open to all [nursing] graduate students and is most appropriate for those with a clinical focus such as CNS, CNM and NP."

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