Lebanese university pioneering inter-professional health education in the region

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Lebanon – More than 1,100 students of nutrition, medicine, pharmacy, nursing and social work at the Lebanese American University (LAU) have in the past year participated in inter-professional education initiatives and activities. Inter-professional education (IPE) is not an integral part of healthcare curricula in the region; and as such LAU is paving the way by making it a mandatory component of its healthcare programmes.

LAU became a pioneer of IPE in Lebanon and the region as Dean of Nursing Dr Nancy Hoffart started the IPE initiative at the university in early 2010. “We believe in IPE and are aiming to grow and become an international role model of inter-professional learning and collaboration,” she says.

IPE brings together students from different disciplines to learn from and about each other in a bid to improve collaboration and delivery of care. Evidence shows that such a practice contributes to safer, more cost-effective patient-centred care as well as fewer medical errors and improved patient satisfaction.

LAU delivers IPE through the IPE-Steps series which comprises five half-day workshops that address collaboration and communication, teamwork and conflict resolution, safety and quality of care, and ethics. Students from different health and social care professions work in small teams of 8–12 students to learn through ice-breaking activities, lectures and case-study discussions.

Taking IPE out of the classroom, LAU’s new initiative provides students with hands-on experience while benefiting the community at large. “Students told us they would like to apply their IPE skills to real life,” explains Dr Nadine Zeeni, assistant professor of nutrition and coordinator of the IPE programme. “So we brought together faculty from all five of our healthcare programmes to lead students in clinical IPE activities, and held community events that brought health information to the public in an interdisciplinary way.”

Students team up during clinical sessions to evaluate real-life patient cases or simulated situations during which a high-fidelity patient scenario gives them the opportunity to clinically collaborate in the care of a patient. Debriefings and reviews of their video-recorded performance enable students to further reflect on and learn from their inter-professional experience.

Community outreach initiatives this spring saw cross-disciplinary teams of students reach out to people in public spaces to offer information and advice on osteoporosis and raise awareness of the adverse effects of energy drinks, diet pills and weight loss.

“The IPE-Steps have opened my eyes to the ways social work ties in with healthcare, especially medicine, and taught me how much work still needs to be done to create harmonious, interdisciplinary teams,” says Rama El Dukar, a senior social work student, who has completed four IPE-Steps so far. “I now have more competencies and more confidence which allow me to state my opinion to the team and show them how important social work is in a hospital setting.”

“Bolstered by such positive feedback, LAU intends to expand on such initiatives,” says Zeeni. “It is a long-term programme and we plan to add more sessions next year, especially given the students’ exceptionally positive response to our activities to date.”