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Idaho State University and older adult community work together to train health professions students

An older adult participates in the IPE event at ISU

POCATELLO/MERIDIAN - October 4, 2019

Students at Idaho State University recently received training from a new group of professors, most of whom have already been enjoying retirement. Members of the older adult, or senior community in Pocatello, Chubbuck and the Treasure Valley played the roles of professor and educator during a unique event with the health and well being of their specific group in mind.

The Kasiska Division of Health Sciences provides training in over 30 programs in the high-demand health professions at their Pocatello, Meridian and Anchorage, Alaska campuses. The KDHS includes the College of Nursing, College of Pharmacy, College of Health Professions and College of Rehabilitation and Communication Sciences. Several other health related programs are offered by the College of Technology, College of Business, College of Education and College of Arts and Letters.

The Thomas Geriatric Interprofessional Education Event brought together ISU students and faculty from many of these programs, along with older adults, who brought their unique perspective and experiences to the table. The event provided students an opportunity to work with, and learn from each other, across a multitude of disciplines. Participation from older adults allowed the students to interact with members of the community who make up the population spurring the massive projected growth of healthcare related jobs over the next five years.

Here’s how it worked - groups of six to ten people made up of students from a number of health professions programs worked together with one or two seniors and a faculty member to study the case of a hypothetical patient. The patient was an older adult who was about to be released from the hospital following a stroke. Students training to be nurse practitioners, occupational therapists, speech language pathologists and pharmacists, for example, collaborated with other students hoping to become dieticians, physical therapists, psychologists and physician assistants. The groups focused on communication across their various areas of expertise, and practiced working together to provide care for the patient, which is known to significantly improve health outcomes. Facilitated by a faculty member, activities introduced and covered the roles of different health professionals and the way they support caregivers and patients. Meanwhile, the older adult/s at the table offered information and shared their distinct perspective related to their own personal healthcare experiences.

Over 400 students and 120 older adults participated in the 2019 inaugural event and organizers are already planning for next year. “Interprofessional education is a major focus in all of our program curriculum” says Chris Owens, associate vice president for health sciences at ISU, and chair for the IPE event planning committee. “Students gain valuable experience by working with and learning from each other, which better prepares them to practice interprofessionally in their careers. Additionally, holding the IPE event at both the Pocatello and Meridian ISU campuses allows us to learn from older adults who bring a variety of individual experiences from across the state. This helps us positively shape the future of healthcare in Idaho.”

Working with the older adult population is just one way ISU is helping improve access to healthcare for those in underserved and rural populations. Another previously held event, the Thomas Geriatric Symposium, provided interactive presentations on topics of interest for older adults in areas such as mental wellness, oral health, nutrition, and fraud protection.