Today’s healthcare is a team sport

As a speech language pathologist, associate professor Therese O’Neil-Pirozzi’s goals are specific: She wants to increase her stroke patient’s verbal expression, word finding, and length of utterances. A physical therapist like assistant professor Prudence Plummer-D’Amato wants to help him regain motor control, and a pharmacist wants to identify the best drug therapy to reduce his pain.

Traditionally, clinicians have operated in silos, managing a piece of the patient’s health in isolation. But in the last decade, the trend has shifted toward a more collaborative approach, according to John Devlin, associate professor of pharmacy practice. The speech language pathologist may evaluate a patient’s ability to swallow medications, he said, and a psychologist, for her part, may recognize and treat post-stroke depression and cognitive dysfunction. This, in turn, may improve medication adherence and improve the ability of the physical therapist to increase functionality.

Dean Terry Fulmer hosted a panel discussion on interprofessional healthcare. Photo by Kristie Gillooly.

Terry Fulmer, dean of the Bouvé College of Health Sciences, hosted a panel discussion on the importance of collaboration in healthcare in the Curry Student Center Ballroom last Tuesday. The discussion was part of the sixth annual Bouvé Interprofessional Research Symposium.

The panelists comprised Devlin, O’Neil-Pirozzi, Plummer-D’Amato, Deborah D’Avolio, associate professor in the School of Nursing, and John Auerbach, Distinguished Professor of Practice and director of the Insti­tute on Urban Health Research.

The discussion focused on how a team approach can lead to improved outcomes for stroke patients, an area of particular interest to Fulmer, an internationally recognized expert in geriatric health.

D’Avolio, a nurse scientist at Massachusetts General Hospital, noted that the nurse practitioner’s role is to help patients and their families navigate the menu of care options.

She helped establish Bouvé’s certificate program in aging, which educates students in the core knowledge of gerontology across disciplines. “We feel that we’re filling a niche here in Boston because it’s an interprofessional certificate and that’s something that hasn’t been available before,” she said.

John Auerbach spoke at the discussion. Photo by Brooks Canaday.

Once the patient leaves the hospital, community health workers enter the scene, said Auerbach, who is particularly interested in the social determinants of health and preventive medicine. He said there are a number of opportunities for the interprofessional team to play a role in the community, noting that clinicians can work as a team “to keep patients healthy rather than simply to provide care when they get sick.”

Shan Mohammed, associate clinical professor and director of the Interprofessional Research, Education, and Practice Initiatives at Bouvé, also spoke at the session, noting that the discussion touched upon the three most important challenges facing an interprofessional clinical team: “how do we communicate with each other, how do we understand what each other’s roles and responsibilities are, and how do we effectively function as a team,” he said. The Bouvé College of Health Sciences supports a collaborative approach to healthcare and research, as demonstrated at the 6th annual Interprofessional Research Symposium last week.