Interprofessional learning—where medical students learn to work in tandem with allied health professionals such as nurses, pharmacists, social workers, and more—is essential to medical education today. However, as a stand-alone medical school without learners in other health professions around us, the Pritzker School of Medicine had to think creatively about how to expose our students to interprofessional learning.
Enter the American Medical Association (AMA). In 2013, the AMA committed to provide $11 million over the next five years to fund selected innovations through their Accelerating Change in Medical Education initiative. Eighty percent of eligible medical schools submitted proposals, and 11 were chosen as founding consortium members. In 2015, the AMA committed to providing another $1.5 million to an additional 21 schools, the University of Chicago among them. The consortium now has 32 schools involved.
The proposal that Jeanne Farnan, MD’02, MHPE, and Vineet Arora, MD, AM’03 submitted included a program called UNITE (Understanding Nursing Interprofessional Team Experiences), which launched last year. UNITE is an immersive-learning interprofessional component of the larger VISTA (Value, Improvement, Safety, and Team Advocates) curriculum for all MS1s. Through UNITE, students spend four hours shadowing a nurse on one of 11 high performing units, filling out pre- and post-experience surveys that include qualitative reflections. On the whole, students and nurses have reported that the UNITE experience improves understanding of the role of nursing and optimization of the learning environment.