Q&A with Dr. Janet Southerland

Oct 18, 2019, 19:34 PM by Stephen Hadley

How is interprofessional education different from the way colleges and universities traditionally trained health care professionals in the past? 

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), interprofessional education occurs when “students (and faculty) from two or more professions learn about, from, and with each other to enable effective collaboration and improve health outcomes.” Interprofessional education differs from the traditional health professions training model in that it involves teaching in an interdisciplinary, team-based manner, rather than in siloed programs where students would have little interaction with one another. With interprofessional education, students are introduced to learning together during their matriculation within their respective programs. 

Why is it considered a better approach? 

The major impetus for interprofessional education is improving the quality of health care outcomes, including patient safety. Interprofessional education is considered a better approach as it emphasizes the need to understand the roles of other providers involved in the care of a patient. In addition, it helps establish appropriate lines of communication, values knowledge, as well as expertise of all team members. 

How is the HEC making the education and teaching experience better for UTMB? 

The Health Education Center is making the education and teaching experience better by providing a 160,000 square foot, state-of-the-art facility that features cutting-edge technology, large, medium and small learning studios and open and closed learning spaces on every floor. It also is a simulated, 77-bed hospital that provides faculty with the ability to re-imagine and re-design learning experiences for students. Conversely, it allows students the ability to learn in an environment that is designed to meet their needs for accessibility, comfort, nourishment and skills acquisition in a low-risk environment. 

With the Health Education Center now open and operational, how does it change the way UTMB trains the health care workforce of the future? 

Future health professionals at UTMB will train in an environment that focuses on interprofessional education and team-based care in which simulation will be used to perfect team dynamics in the clinical setting as well as hone skills. We anticipate that our learners will be prepared to lead or be a part of high-functioning teams that are lauded for quality of care and patient outcomes. 

Now that the building has been open a few months, how do you see UTMB using it moving forward? 

I see the center utilization increasing significantly for all types of simulated learning for our internal academic and community partners. Activities will encompass interprofessional education in human and non-human simulation along with learning in virtual environments. Additionally, we plan to embrace a broad cohort of leaners from undergraduates to practitioners from a variety of disciplines 

What has been the response from students and faculty members who are using the facility on a daily basis? 

We have had excitement from faculty and students and everyone has demonstrated a great deal of pride in the center and what it offers the educator and learner. Students have made themselves at home in the common, and not so common, spaces. Having the cafeteria in the center has also helped to create a focal point for faculty and student gathering and a place of relaxation. Most of all, everyone can see the potential that the center embodies and how it can be used to enhance learning experiences in ways we could not completely imagine before the space and technology was made available.