Academic journal article Journal of Allied Health

Transdisciplinary Assignments in Graduate Health Education as a Model for Future Collaboration

Academic journal article Journal of Allied Health

Transdisciplinary Assignments in Graduate Health Education as a Model for Future Collaboration

Article excerpt

Transdisciplinary health care continues to be at the forefront of patient treatment in the medical arena, in part due to escalating health care costs, an increasing aging population, and the development of multiple chronic diseases. Gaining the knowledge, experience, and principles associated with transdisciplinary teamwork to successfully prepare for modern-day practice is therefore essential for individuals of various health care professions. This report describes an assignment developed and implemented to facilitate professional interaction between graduate physical therapy, nutrition, and nursing students. The objectives of this assignment were to determine through student evaluation the effects of a transdisciplinary experience on students' understanding of the role of another discipline and students' communication skills across disciplines. When evaluating the assignment, students most often remarked that they developed a greater understanding of the roles of the included disciplines and reported a significant increase in communication skills. However, some students did not concur that this assignment was effective due to the scheduling conflicts and lack of teamwork that can occur during a collaborative project. The students' reports of their experiences in completing the assignment provide valuable insights for implementing and/or updating a preparatory transdisciplinary education component in other settings. Additional research can focus on the challenges faced by the majority of the students venturing into actual health care or "real-world" settings for comparative studies. J Allied Health 2007; 36:67-71.

TODAY'S MULTIFACETED and growing health care system challenges professionals to develop a wide collection of essential skills to practice proficiently and effectively.1 Health professionals must keep pace with shifting patient diversity, expectations accompanying changes in health care structure, emerging practice requirements, advanced technology, and health care quality improvement.2 Health care, once centered on care from a single discipline consisting primarily of a physician, has slowly evolved into a transdisciplinary practice in part due to escalating health care costs, an increasing aging population, and the development of multiple chronic diseases.3,4 These current challenges are so complex that no single discipline can offer effective solutions alone.4 To date, transdisciplinary health care continues to be at the forefront of patient treatment in the medical arena. Results include improved cost-effectiveness and increased patient satisfaction in addition to enhanced coordination of services, medical treatment outcomes, palliative care outcomes, and quality of life for older adults receiving medical attention.5-8 Gaining the knowledge, experience, and principles associated with transdisciplinary teamwork to successfully prepare for modern-day practice is therefore essential for individuals of various health care professions.

Numerous references in the health care literature indicate that the most critical time for a health practitioner to receive transdisciplinary experience is during his or her educational period.3,4,9 In recent years, medical education programs primarily focused their curriculum to educate students in their individualized disciplines.3 In the 1970s, with the origin of interest in interdisciplinary practice, educational instruction began to integrate curricula allowing for students of health care professions to "work together" and be exposed to the concept of interdisciplinary practice.4,9

Sadly, today many programs still follow the older model, with courses being taught only by professionals in the particular field that is being studied. Others continue to enhance the development of transdisciplinary education by modifying curricula and courses and creating programs to allow students to develop an understanding of the responsibilities and background of other colleagues in the health professions as well as the significance of their specialty to the care of the patient. …

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