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Interprofessional Education (IPE) at SCCO

K McCarthy Cover Photo

Deciding on where to attend optometry school can be extremely difficult. When I was researching different programs, there was a ton of information to consider whether that be curriculum, location, cost, and much more. Beyond this, many schools may share similar statistics when it comes to these variables, making it hard to differentiate between the schools and find things that really stand out and resonate with you. While there were several unique factors that led me to choose SCCO, one of my absolute favorites was the emphasis on interprofessional education (IPE).

IPE allows students in multiple different disciplines to connect and collaborate as a team in assisting patient care. SCCO has a fantastic approach to IPE that includes multiple avenues for optometry students to connect and collaborate with MBKU’s physician assistant (PA) and pharmacy students. There are various interprofessional co-curricular and social events, patient simulations with the different disciplines, faculty lead interprofessional collaboration at Ketchum Health, and interprofessional collaboration experiences during clinical rotations in our last year. Beyond this, MBKU offers several IPE courses that optometry, PA, and pharmacy students take together on topics such as Medical Spanish, Interprofessional Case Conferences, Principles of DEI in Healthcare, Population and Public Health, and more.

Being able to practice this teamwork amongst different disciplines because of an IPEintegrated curriculum will allow us to develop strong interprofessional collaboration skills when we are practicing optometrists. Interprofessional collaboration is very important for any healthcare professional to use as it helps make patient care both more effective and efficient.

After I graduated college, I took a gap year while I applied for optometry schools and worked for a glaucoma specialist and general ophthalmologist as a technician/scribe. It was at this job that I experienced firsthand the importance of interprofessional collaboration by helping establish and maintain connections with other medical professionals involved in our patients’ care. Part of my job was to call new patients’ referring providers with the patient’s consent and ask for their last office visit notes. Often we would call and receive these notes from primary care physicians, PAs, nurse practitioners, cardiologists, neurologists, other ophthalmologists, and of course optometrists.

Having the patient’s medical record available for our physicians provided them with a much clearer understanding of the patient’s health history and allowed them to make more informed decisions about a patient’s care. It also facilitated better conversations to be had with our patients about options tailored to their individual needs. As a scribe, I would constantly be asked to pull up the patient’s medical records from other providers so the doctor could read them and see if there were any outstanding updates that could affect their care plan. I also sent notes for just about every patient to various providers of the patient’s choosing. This communication created an avenue for interprofessional collaboration to occur between the different providers of our patients, which led to a community of trusted professionals in the area.

I especially noticed this collaboration in action between our ophthalmologists and local optometrists. With our glaucoma specialist, patients usually frequented every couple of months due to the importance of monitoring their intraocular pressure. Many of these patients were co-managed by optometrists who could check their IOP as well so an extra level of care could be provided. Our general ophthalmologist always referred patients to optometrists for post-operative care after cataract surgery to help the patient receive an excellent refraction. I observed the peace of mind it gave our patient to know that a reliable stream of communication between their trusted providers was occurring. It also takes the burden off the patient to understand complex medical jargon that may have been said during their visits with various members of their healthcare team, essentially helping to eliminate any miscommunication that could end up delaying the care a patient truly needs.

As optometrists, an essential part of our career will be communicating with our patient’s other healthcare providers as the health of the eye and overall systemic health are so intertwined. Having a curriculum that emphasizes IPE is very valuable because we as students can master these communication techniques early on in our training and implement them in our future practices right off the bat. These skills will help us become overall better care providers as we will be more aware of a patient’s health background, leading us to have improved care planning, and conversations uniquely tailored to each patient. Beyond this, it will help all other providers involved in our patient’s care stay informed and establishes connections and trust within your local medical community.

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