Each year, hundreds of graduate-level health sciences students benefit from attending an innovative interprofessional education (IPE) forum focused on scleroderma in Albany, New York. The patient-centered IPE has become a model for provider education and is made possible by a partnership among the Steffens Scleroderma Foundation, Sage Colleges Health Sciences, Albany College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences, and Dr. Lee Shapiro’s Scleroderma Center at Albany Medical College.
The goals of the IPE are to reduce the time to diagnosis and improve the quality of care for scleroderma patients. Since scleroderma is a rare disease with variable symptoms that can potentially impact several different parts of the body (skin, lungs, vascular, gastrointestinal, kidney, and heart), it’s difficult to diagnoses and treat. The IPE provides an introduction to the disease with the hope that no patients are greeted with a blank stare when mentioning their diagnosis to a healthcare professional.
Photo credit: Tamara Hansen, The Sage Colleges, courtesy of Ruckert Advertising & Public Relations’ Facebook page
Each IPE includes students from five health-professional schools at Sage Colleges (occupational therapy, physical therapy, nursing, nutrition and psychology) and pharmacy students from the Albany College of Pharmacy—a total of about 200 students at each IPE. A unique feature of this IPE is the participation of about 30 patients with scleroderma. Each patient is assigned to a team of multi-discipline health professional students. The students and patients actively engage in an open conversation to understand the needs of the patient and the potential benefits of a discipline within the healthcare team.
Additional elements of the IPE include a patient keynote speaker, an expert panel that fields student participant questions, and a panel of students who question the patient-keynote speaker, with their interview questions reviewed/critiqued by the coordinator of the Patient Simulation Program at Albany Medical College. The partnership presented its third Scleroderma IPE Forum on November 4, 2019 at The Albany College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences gymnasium and its fourth IPE is being planned for October 2020 at the Sage Armory. The feedback from both students and patient participants has been extremely positive.
The IPE is believed to be the first scleroderma educational experience of its kind that includes patient participation. There are about 45 Scleroderma Centers in the United States and there is interest in providing it as a “best practice" model that might be established at other centers.