Asynchronous Interprofessional Education focusing on Social Determinants of Health for Individual and Population Health

Florence Weierbach, PhD, MPH, MSN, RN, East Tennessee State University

Interprofessional education (IPE) is an accreditation standard for nursing and multiple health discipline education programs. However, with the proliferation of asynchronous on-line graduate nursing programs, meeting the standard is a challenge. How asynchronous nursing programs involve other health care and non-health care disciplines to partner for IPE learning in the asynchronous environment requires collaboration and creativity.

At a regional state university with five health care colleges,  an IPE asynchronous program was developed. Three of five schools with asynchronous graduate programs require their students to participate in the asynchronous IPE program. Graduate nursing, Public health, Social Work and undergraduate dental hygiene and respiratory therapy students are students in an asynchronous IPE class. In developing the IPE class, the interdisciplinary faculty kept the focus on creating meaningful learning experiences centered on the four IPE competencies.

A step wise approach was central in creating authentic learning experiences for students who had limited exposure to either individual care in a clinic or acute care environment or to community/public health. The first step in meeting the challenge was for the IPE program developers to understand how the four IPE competencies were applicable at the individual and community level. The second step was to provide students with authentic learning experiences focusing on the four competencies. The third step was to build realistic learning opportunities with case studies that were applicable to students with an individual and a community focus. As a result of the challenges presented, the community/public health nurse faculty team member was able to provide discourse with all the faculty, whether they were focused on individual care or public health.

Two case studies that addressed a clinical problem with the same clinical focus had students focusing Social Determinants of Health (SDOH) at the individual and population/community level. While each case study was independent of the other, each case had an IPE competency attached to the case. The individual case study involved a young child with lead exposure; the IPE competency was Values and Ethics. The population/community health case study had students representing residents in public housing to advocate for lead free housing with the local housing authority that had been historically dismissive of the residents; the IPE competency was Communication.

In both lead exposure cases, the multidisciplinary student teams were provided information on the SDOH. Students were required to address the SDOH at the individual/community level in their interactions with a simulated patient/professional. As Community/Public Health Nurse educators, it is our responsibility to embrace opportunities that present themselves in our academic institutions.

Dr. Weierbach is an Associate Professor in the College of Nursing at East Tennessee State University and  one of the four faculty who developed the on-line asynchronous IPE learning experience.

She is a longtime member of ACHNE, the Association of Community Health Nursing Educators (ACHNE): www.achne.org Currently, she is the ACHNE Member-at-Large Chair of the Membership Committee.

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