Jennifer Mendez, Ph.D.
A Wayne State University program that teams medical, pharmacy, nursing, occupational therapy, physical therapy, physician assistant and social work students to conduct home visits with older adults has won the Michigan Health Council’s 2013 Building Michigan’s Health Care Workforce Awards for Interprofessional Teamwork Initiative.
The WSU program, developed in 2010 by Jennifer Mendez, Ph.D., assistant professor and director of Co-Curricular Programs for the School of Medicine, with faculty from the College of Pharmacy, is officially titled Wayne State University: Interprofessional Team Home Visit Program Fostering a Collaborative Approach to Patient Care. Nearly 800 students participate in the annual home site visit program, which seeks to introduce health professional students to the demands of assessing older adult health and social needs in a home environment. The program educates students from the School of Medicine, the Eugene Applebaum College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences, the College of Nursing and the School of Social Work about the unique psychosocial and health care needs of older adults.
“It is my honor to receive this award on behalf of the faculty, staff and students at Wayne State University for our efforts in developing and implementing a program that has encouraged others in the country to follow suit,” Dr. Mendez said.
Students conduct the visits in teams of three. Team members include second-year medical students, second- and third-year pharmacy students, students in the social work programs, second-year physician assistant students, second-year physical therapy students, first- and second-year occupational therapy students and second-year nursing students.
“This program is preparing students for their future role as part of the health care team, which will play an important role in implementing the Affordable Care Act and the Institute of Medicine’s objectives for ‘Retooling for an Aging America: Building the Health Care Workforce,’” Dr. Mendez said. “We are trying to show our students that interprofessional health care teams improve patient outcomes and safety, health care delivery, decrease the number of medical errors and lower the cost of patient care.”
More than 450 seniors 65 and older have signed up for the program. During the one-hour visits, students ask questions about daily activities, nutrition, medications, family health and social supports. Third-year pharmacy students conduct a follow-up visit with recommendations. Medical students use assessment tools to evaluate seniors’ nutrition and/or functional and cognitive abilities. Pharmacy students address medication use and management, and social work students discuss and evaluate social networks. Overall, students learn about aging issues through real-life interaction.
The seniors are recruited for the program, now in its fifth year, through postings at senior centers, residential facilities, Detroit Medical Center clinics and churches.
“The older adults appreciate this initiative, as they learn more about their own aging while teaching students what they would like to see in their practitioners,” Dr. Mendez added.
A survey of students in the program found that 98.9 percent agreed the project helped them improve teamwork skills for learning, and 93.8 percent agreed their participation taught them to become more effective as a health team member.
The students felt that being part of an interprofessional team provides better patient care and increased their professional success. They also learned about aging and the influence of social constructs on various health aspects, the benefits and challenges of conducting patient assessments in a home environment and the impact on patient outcomes.
The Michigan Health Council is a non-profit organization that seeks to develop a premier health care workforce in all Michigan communities. The council works to connect health care employers with practitioners, promote health education and address challenges facing health care professionals.