Impact of cross-collaboration in healthcare highlighted

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Impact of cross-collaboration in healthcare highlighted in recent pilot project

The success of a cross-collaboration initiative between University of Otago dental and pharmacy students has prompted the departments to consider including it for an entire semester. (Image: eldar nurkovic/Shutterstock)

Mon. 20. January 2020


DUNEDIN, New Zealand: The need for communication between healthcare professionals has been highlighted in a recent project. In what might be a world first, University of Otago pharmacy and dentistry students have collaborated within a clinic setting in order to improve their training and patient care.

Discussions around interdisciplinary collaboration are becoming more mainstream, and the idea of dentistry and pharmacy working together is not new. In a 1912 speech titled “The relation of pharmacy to dentistry”, Dr I. Norman Broomell spoke about the topic to the Philadelphia branch of the American Pharmaceutical Association. In his speech, Broomell said: “The relationship between pharmacy and dentistry is quite similar to the relationship existing between pharmacy and general medical practice”, stating that, if the work of the dentist were limited to just the care of teeth, there would be minimal need for collaboration with the pharmacy discipline.

In the recent pilot project, which ran for one month in October 2019, ten third-year Bachelor of Pharmacy students and ten third-year Bachelor of Dental Surgery students were paired together. Working with patients at the Dunedin Faculty of Dentistry, the collaboration aimed at improving both the level of care and student knowledge.

“I really enjoyed this experience because it was such a unique opportunity to learn. Being able to collaborate in a real-life setting provided me with new insights into the benefits of IPE [interprofessional education], which I’m sure other students will find if this were continued in future,” said pharmacy student Jacob Dresser.

As reported by Dental Tribune International, an earlier study, led by the New York University (NYU) Rory Meyers College of Nursing, showed how dental, medical and nursing students worked together in order to help improve interprofessional skills and collaboration between primary care and dental providers. Speaking about the importance of a collaborative work environment, Dr Erin Hartnett, programme director of oral health nursing education and practice at NYU Meyers and the study’s lead author, said: “Collaborative, workplace-ready students are valuable assets to any clinical team.”

In another example of the importance of building honest working relationships across different disciplines, researchers in a 2017 study titled “Teamwork and collaboration in healthcare: Elements of inter-professional teamwork”, noted that “teamwork and collaboration between health professionals have been shown to be key elements in the delivery of cost-effective healthcare, positive patient outcomes and enhanced patient and professional satisfaction”.

The programme at the University of Otago has provided positive results, and department heads are now considering integrating it to an even higher degree next year.  “It surpassed expectations in terms of the learning experience it provided, and we think it would be worth pursuing the relationship between the two schools further,” noted Associate Professor of Pharmacy Education Dr Kyle Wilby. Elaborating on what that might look like, Wilby said that it could run over an entire semester, allowing the opportunity to measure patient outcomes.

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