February 10, 2021

LIFE Launches

A new semester-long certificate program delivers what U-M students want most in interprofessional education (IPE): team-building and interactions with real patients.

It was a cold January 2021 weekday evening, and 50 students from across the U-M health science schools had checked in for a two-hour kickoff of the “Longitudinal Interprofessional Family-based Experience” (LIFE). They began with a social determinants of health exercise of the sort used at the large-scale IPE in Action at Crisler Center (pre-pandemic). They watched functional and dysfunctional team videos, followed by “jam-boarding” about collaboration: listing both what’s needed for a good team, and what is not helpful. The energy kicked in as they responded popcorn-style to brainstorming prompts. 

It was all prelude to the main act that will occupy most of the program to come: collaborating as interprofessional teams in a structured approach to a real-life patient interaction, in conjunction with Michigan Medicine’s Office of Patient Experience.

“The student learners in this program chose to participate in LIFE in addition to their professional program requirements–and their commitment speaks volumes to the interest of U-M students in being prepared to enter an interprofessional workforce,” said UM-Flint’s College of Health Sciences’ Laura Smith, who serves as the team lead for the award-winning group of faculty behind IPE foundational experiences at U-M. “This program is about interprofessional care: it’s not a concept, but a way of practice and we are committed to preparing students very early on in their educational journey,” she explained.

“ Students have long asked for opportunities to work together longitudinally and to do IPE activities with a real patient,” said U-M Center for IPE assistant director Vani Patterson, adding: “LIFE delivers on both of those, and we are excited to see the impact on student learning. IPE is and always has been about the patient and we are thrilled to have this opportunity to connect interprofessional student teams with real patients rather than cases.” 

The January kick-off was an introductory event to prepare students for the main activity of LIFE, which is two patient/family interviews with their interprofessional teams. Students will work together to prepare for these interviews, each having its own angle for students to focus on. They will then conduct the interviews as a team, and then have a team debrief to reflect on both the information gained as well as the process. LIFE will wrap up on March 31 with a closing event. The faculty team is eager to review the learning data from the program and understand the impact of this educational effort in comparison to other foundational IPE efforts made in previous years.