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TeamBITS Team Communication Training


For the fifth year in a row, the University of Washington hosted healthcare professional students for a week of immersive team-training simulation in the areas of Adult, Pediatric and OB/GYN Acute Care. The innovative Team-Based Interprofessional Training Simulations (TeamBITS) program allows students who typically train in specialty-specific environments to practice their skills together as they would in a real-world setting. Over four days, from May 19–22, 352 students came together from the Schools of Medicine (180 students), Nursing (123 BSN students), and Pharmacy (49 students) to participate in a total of 13 four-hour team training sessions at ISIS Simulation Centers at Harborview Medical Center and the University of Washington Medical Center.

During the course of a team-training session, students have opportunities to discuss care options with simulated patients and their families (played by actors) and other health professionals participating in the simulation, voice concerns and make decisions in “real time”. Then, students and faculty debrief at the conclusion of the session. Faculty ask for feedback, “What went well? What could have gone better? How realistic was the scenario? How could we have provided a better/more relevant/more realistic experience?” Students overwhelmingly gave positive responses to their experiences.

“Very useful skills! I didn't realize the deficits in my knowledge of each person’s roles until we started working as a team—this will help me so much in future,” said a medical student.

“This type of IPE was the most useful of all and this should be done multiple times,” shared a pharmacy student.

Said another medical student, “I feel that I haven't had much exposure [up] to this point and feel it's an important piece of medical education.  It would be wonderful to do this earlier in our curriculum and several times, as opposed to just this one time.”

A nursing student shared, “Excellent prep for interprofessional settings.  I think this is so important for us about to graduate.”

In response to the need for effective communication training for health professions students, the University of Washington received funding in 2008 from the Josiah Macy Jr. Foundation and Hearst Foundation (over $1 million) to develop an interprofessional curriculum for healthcare professional students based on the Team Strategies and Tools to Enhance Performance and Patient Safety (TeamSTEPPS) model of effective communication (Project Co-PIs: Dr. Brenda Zierler, PhD, RN, FAAN and Dr. Brian Ross, PhD, MD). Since this time, faculty and other representatives from the UW Schools of Medicine, Nursing, Pharmacy and MEDEX (Physician’s Assistant) program have developed a truly interprofessional training curriculum for these students. Led by the efforts of Dr. Brian Ross, PhD, MD, Karen McDonough, MD, and Dr. Brenda Zierler, PhD, RN, FAAN, and additionally supported by faculty and staff from Harborview Medical Center, University of Washington Medical Center and Health Sciences Schools, and Seattle Children’s Hospital, the resulting experience combines both clinical practice and team skills in a simulated training environment. The goal of this training program is to promote high-quality, patient-centered healthcare by training healthcare professionals to communicate more effectively with each other and with patients during challenging clinical situations. This format of interprofessional education is quickly becoming a model for healthcare professional training across the country.