Creating interprofessional experiences at your school

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My APhA–ASP Chapter at the Purdue University College of Pharmacy is lucky enough to have almost 200 active members. While we are involved in many different facets of the local community, university, and national pharmacy community, we are constantly pushing our chapter to grow. We do this by continually exploring new opportunities for student pharmacists within the health care community. While attending APhA2016 in Baltimore, MD, one such opportunity was recognized. 

Throughout the weekend, I interacted with student pharmacists from all over the country. From these conversations, I noted many students reflecting upon interprofessional experiences held by their APhA–ASP Chapter. I realized we had little exposure to these experiences at Purdue. This seemed like the perfect opportunity to me, to expand upon our chapter’s goal of continually delivering the best possible patient care.

An arduous task

Almost immediately after returning home, I started to establish an interprofessional experience chair within the chapter. As the first chair of this committee, my main goal was to highlight the role of interprofessional experiences relative to our growth as student pharmacists. I wanted to open a variety of experiences with a wide range of student health care providers: nurses, dietitians, speech pathologists, physician, veterinarians, etc. I had big ideas and was ready to get the ball rolling. I quickly learned, however, that establishing a position from scratch was not an easy task. I also quickly learned why interprofessional experiences were not already widely available at Purdue. 

While West Lafayette, IN, is a wonderful college town for undergraduates, it is not the bustling, urban health campus many pharmacy schools reside within. The nearest cities are Indianapolis, IN, which is 90 minutes away, or Chicago, IL, about 2 hours away. As a result, I had to learn to capitalize on the opportunities available within our small community. 

Networking yields results

Fast forward to today and after a slow-but-sure process, I am thrilled to tell you that our interprofessional experiences have come a long way! One of my biggest assets over the course of this semester was the past and current faculty directors of interprofessional experiences at Purdue. After several of my ideas hit a dead-end, I finally reached out to them and they put me in touch with many of the right people. This brings me to my biggest piece of advice for anyone inspired to establish an interprofessional experiences committee: network with faculty members and other student organizations that already incorporate these experiences. And, while it is great to want to establish an interprofessional program from scratch, it is a very tedious process! 

I attained the most success from connecting with multiple organizations spanning interdisciplinary programs throughout the university. Once I began networking with others, I started receiving many e-mails inviting student pharmacists to participate in events. One such unique event we participated in this past semester was a simulation of an anthrax outbreak organized by nursing students and the West Lafayette Department of Health. 

Some of the connections I made with other students have also turned into genuine friendships, such as my connection in the medical school. Earlier this year, we began working on an interdisciplinary mobile health clinic to provide medication counseling to the underserved areas of West Lafayette. This program has been named HOPES (Health Outreach and Project Event Series). To kick off this project, we invited Chuck Dietzen, MD, the founder of Timmy Global Health, to speak to medical, pharmacy, and public health students about the importance of interdisciplinary teams when caring for patients. The event was a great success that facilitated amazing conversation between disciplines, and the mobile health clinic is set to begin in September. 

Proud of our commitment

Over the course of this year, I have had the opportunity to learn so much more about the importance of interprofessional experiences as a student. It is not only about understanding how to effectively communicate with other future health care providers, it is also about representing the immense contributions pharmacists can make to a team. I am proud to show off my chapter’s commitment to patient-centered care and I think this commitment often is a surprise to other providers. 

In the end, the process of creating this position was not easy. I had my share of failures and of events cancelled due to lack of interest, but we also had some true successes. 

As I move on to my final-year rotations, I am excited to see the work continued by my peers. There are currently plans to combine one of our APhA–ASP immunization clinics with the Purdue University Veterinary School to promote education about the necessity of pet immunizations. The opportunities are certainly boundless! 



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