February 22, 2012
By Lauren Lewis
"Interdisciplinary" is a term students are starting to hear more often at the UNM Health Sciences Center. The idea that medical professionals from different disciplines never work together is fading and the opposite is being taught to students – that all medical professionals from all disciplines should and need to collaborate to improve patient outcomes.
An example of this coming to life in some of the educational curriculums around the HSC is the Geriatric Education and Health Maintenance Clinics also known as GEHM.
Originally created by the UNM College of Nursing for its students to experience real-life patient interaction, the GEHM Clinics take place in several community and senior citizen centers around Albuquerque. Students provide various health screenings like glucose and blood pressure, and offer health education such as medication management consultation.
This past fall, the College of Nursing partnered with the UNM College of Pharmacy to give pharmacy students the opportunity to participate in the clinics as an elective course. The idea was to have first-year nursing students pair with third-year pharmacy students to create a mentorship situation.
"The mentoring idea came up because we wanted to be sure that all the students were getting a full educational experience," said Catherine Cone, assistant professor, UNM College of Pharmacy. "I thought the idea of having the third-year pharmacy students mentor the first-year nursing students would be beneficial for everyone."
Third-year pharmacy student Angelica Avila was among the first group of students to take the elective last fall and is currently taking the course again for the spring semester. The experience Avila is gaining at the clinics is one she knows will help her when she's out in the workforce.
"After our second year in pharmacy school we were required to do a hospital rotation and I noticed that there was a lot of finger pointing when errors occurred or when medications were late or lost," said Avila. "I think that if we start working together when we are all students we will understand the roles of each other and know how each professional can provide help to the patient."
At the clinics, the students work together as they would in an actual outpatient setting. The nursing students take the patient's vitals and the pharmacy students look over the patient's medications and counsel them on appropriate therapies.
"This is the first time some of the nursing students are interacting with patients so we help them with blood pressure, heart rate and blood glucose screening," said Avila. "It's very cool that they get to know what we as pharmacy students are able to do and help with. When I make suggestions regarding a patient's therapy I explain to the nursing student why I made a certain recommendation. Hopefully, what I mention to them will help them in their future pharmacology classes."
Debra Muscarella, senior RN case manager and GEHM coordinator, UNM College of Nursing, said she is thrilled with how well the nursing and pharmacy collaboration has turned out for the clinics. She hopes the partnership will continue to grow to accommodate more students.
"The benefit of these clinics is that the pharmacy and nursing students learn to respect each other's profession and see how much each of them can bring to the table," said Muscarella. "If they can start working together at the very beginning of their profession, they can respect each other and be a team rather than work against each other in the future."
For more information on the GEHM clinics, contact Debra Muscarella.