For many pharmacy students, the concept of interprofessional collaboration is abstract until late in their education. They may learn about the benefits of team-based health care, but won’t experience it personally until they begin working in a health system during their two-year residency. This is especially true if their undergraduate program is not associated with a medical center where interprofessional education (IPE) programs are often housed, and where it’s easier to pair pharmacy students with professionals from multiple disciplines.

Headshot of Jeanna Sewell Clinical Assistant Professor at Harrison School of Pharmacy at Auburn University

One way to accelerate this timeline is to use experiential learning tools like Friday Night at the ER. By playing the role of hospital personnel who must work together to coordinate patient care, deal with unforeseen circumstances and make cross-functional decisions, students in pharmacy — and any health profession — can begin to build the skills they will need for real-world collaboration later.

For Jeanna Sewell, who teaches at the Harrison School of Pharmacy at Auburn University and directs its IPE program, the tabletop simulation is an ideal way for her students to experience both the importance of effective teamwork and the challenges they may face with interprofessional collaborative practice in their future roles. In fact, she believes that having this understanding prior to practice will ultimately help improve patient outcomes and job satisfaction.

Jeanna introduced the game at Auburn in 2020 after playing it at a faculty retreat, and it is now a required activity for third-year pharmacy students and third-semester nursing students who typically play together. Social work students participate on occasion, and Jeanna would like to include health care administration students from the business school in the future.

It’s no surprise Jeanna has big plans for the game. She was one of the first people to take our remote facilitator training course earlier this year, and in 2019, she and her IPE team received the President’s Outstanding Collaborative Units Award at Auburn for their efforts to advance interprofessional education there. To learn more about her interest in Friday Night at the ER, and how it fits into her IPE toolbox, we talked with Jeanna recently.

Q:When you first played Friday Night at the ER, what made you realize it would be a good teaching tool for your IPE program?

I have always enjoyed games and strategy, which caused Friday Night at the ER to pique my interest quickly. When I played for the first time, the concepts that were taught by FNER were new to me and I was able to make parallels to my career and practice easily. With my background in interprofessional education, the parallel between silos of departments and silos of professions was the first place I saw this fitting as an excellent teaching tool.

Q:In addition to teamwork and collaboration, are there other concepts you teach with the game? Do you address systems thinking, for example?

We do focus on systems thinking during the delivery of FNER. Specifically we discuss the concepts of collaboration, innovation, data-driven decision making, and structure driving function. Each of these principles translates to interprofessional practice well. Historically our pharmacy students have not been taught systems thinking, so it is a new concept for them and the game is a great way to introduce it.

Q:Playing the game can be transformative for students. What are the most common ‘aha!’ moments you see when you lead game sessions?

One of the areas that I see our health professions students growing is in their ability to innovate. Most of them do not innovate during the game, but I can see their excitement in thinking how their game play would have changed had they taken the opportunity to do so. Other students discuss a new understanding of the importance of knowing the roles and responsibilities of other healthcare professionals, which is a big win in interprofessional education.

Q:The game and debrief can be customized to meet specific learning objectives or time constraints. What, if any, modifications have you made?

I have had to shorten the game and debrief somewhat in order to meet the constraints of our program. We have been able to provide both in 2.5 hours without a problem, while keeping student attention. I also customized the debrief and added some time for students to have small group discussions related to interprofessional patient care.

Q:Your IPE team has been recognized for its innovation. What are your predictions for the future of IPE?

I am really excited for the future of IPE at our school and across the country. All the work that is being done in interprofessional education is making an impact on the healthcare professionals that are practicing in various settings today. When implemented in these settings, we will continue to see greater impacts on patient outcomes and that is really exciting!

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