If you enter a classroom on a Wednesday afternoon this fall,
you may encounter this: Ten student teams with students from as many as five
health professions wrestling with a clinical case—racing against the clock and
each other—to identify all the potential harms that may befall a patient. When
the time expires, the teams receive their scores and then reflect on their
performance. As individuals and as a team, what did they do well? Where did
they go wrong? How can they improve?
Like aviation and other high-risk industries, communication
and collaboration failures in health care are the root cause of the majority of
adverse events. Health care fails, not because professionals lack technical
knowledge, but because they fail to share their knowledge effectively with
others engaged in the care of their patients.
Historically, communication curricula for health
professionals have focused on provider-patient communication and have typically
occurred within professional disciplinary silos. While effective communication
between providers and patients is central to ensuring good clinical outcomes,
it does not address the challenges posed by interprofessional communication and
collaboration that account for so much of the harm. Training to address these
types of failures has been largely absent from the education health
The University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus program
Realizing Educational Advancement in Collaborative Health (REACH) intends to
change that history. Since the fall of 2010, during their first week on campus,
all students join an interprofessional team with whom they will work for two
years. These student teams go through a curriculum in teamwork and
communication that involves experiential learning through team-based exercises.
The curriculum is evolving rapidly, guided by human factors research, teamwork
training and research in other disciplines, and by input and feedback from
participating students and faculty. In the third year, students again work in
teams to practice the skills they’ve learned in simulated patient care
scenarios at the Center for Advancing Professional Excellence (CAPE).
If the curriculum is successful, the
REACH team believes
we will have created better communicators and team players who will ultimately
ensure the safety, health and well-being of their patients for years to come.